Everything hurt. The bruises on his body, the pounding in his head, and the painful clenching of his heart. He cracked his eyes open, groaning painfully as bright light flooded his senses. Yuuri pawed around blindly, until he grabbed ahold of a pillow and dragged it over his face to block out the offending brightness. His brain felt like it was throbbing, but his memory was coming up blank. Yuuri thought hard to remember what had happened last night, and immediately regretted it.
He remembered getting the call that his beloved poodle had been hit by a car and didn't make it. He remembered being so stricken with grief that all his spells had backfired (explosively), or fizzled out. He remembered Cao Bin knocking him out of the ring embarrassingly fast in both rounds. He remembered walking away from his idol because he couldn't stand to face him after such an abysmal performance. He remembered the junior champion screaming at him in the bathroom about how he was a disgrace to every other wild magic user. He remembered going to the banquet and drinking champagne, but he didn't remember anything else.
Above all, Katsuki Yuuri remembered that he had royally messed up, and that his career as a competitive sorcerer was probably over. All of his time training, all those years away from Vicchan, wasted.
The thought of his furry friend brought fresh tears to Yuuri's eyes, and he sobbed into the pillow. It had been almost 5 years since he had seen Vicchan. The poor dog had no idea why Yuuri abandoned him, or why he hadn't been there to say goodbye. Yuuri sobbed harder, gripping the soft hotel linens like a lifeline. "Vicchan..." he wailed miserably.
An answering whine sounded from the end of his bed and Yuuri froze. He threw the pillow off his head and sat up, his head and stomach violently protesting the motion. He had to close his eyes briefly to will himself not to throw up everywhere, and he hoped that when he opened them, he wouldn't see anything there.
As Yuuri's stomach settled back to a more manageable level of nausea, he slowly opened his eyes. At the foot of his bed lay a silver standard poodle with piercing blue eyes. Yuuri blinked in confusion, trying to remember something, anything, after he went to the banquet. Did he steal a dog?!
"Oh shit..." Yuuri gulped. Where did this dog come from? The dog was gorgeous, well groomed, and athletically built. Very obviously well cared for.
The poodle looked at him with wide eyes, then tried to stand up. Except, the dog immediately toppled over the bed and onto the floor with a startled yelp. Yuuri heard more whining and frantic yelping from the floor.
Yuuri started to panic, because there was no way a fancy hotel like this would allow dogs, and he didn't want to get himself or his coach in trouble. He rolled out of bed as gracefully as he could, desperately hoping he wouldn't make himself sick in the process. The poodle was writhing around, trying to stand and stumbling around on unsteady legs.
"Easy! It's ok bud!" He caught the poodle, who stiffened in his arms. Yuuri braced himself for a bite or a growl, but the dog quickly relaxed and leaned into him, whining quietly and shaking. Yuuri scratched his head and neck, murmuring soothing words. The fur was silky and smooth, and cut to a very manageable length. It was another indication that someone cared about the dog, but Yuuri was surprised to find that there was no collar.
"Where did you come from..." he peeked on the dog's underside, "boy?" The dog made a grumbling noise, and Yuuri swore he crossed his back legs. He must have imagined it. Then, the dog woofed and pawed at him. "Um, do you need to go potty? Wanna go outside?" Yuuri asked the dog in English, hoping the dog would understand.
Without his glasses on, Yuuri had to have been seeing things, because the dog looked like he was shaking his head to say "no". Yuuri blinked at him, then shook his head to try and calm himself. He must be losing his mind. He stepped away from the dog and turned into the bathroom to relieve himself and splash water on his face. Then, he brushed his teeth to get rid of the awful taste of bile and stale alcohol. Yuuri just needed to collect his thoughts, so he didn't imagine things that weren't there.
As soon as he stepped back into the room, the dog padded past him into the bathroom, grabbing the doorknob in his teeth and backing up until the door closed. Yuuri rubbed his eyes, gaping at the door, then he scrambled over to the nightstand to find his glasses. They weren't there, but after a short search he found them on the floor. Fortunately, they weren't scratched, but they were a bit smudged. Once he could see properly, he pulled out a Cure-All potion from his bag and downed it. The hangover symptoms immediately started to fade, and Yuuri sighed in relief.
Yuuri thought back to all his sorcery training, trying to remember if he had ever heard anything about unusually smart animals. Familiars were the only thing that came to mind, but Familiars were supposed to be able to communicate telepathically with the person they were linked to.
A toilet flushed in the bathroom, then Yuuri heard the sound of claws on the door, and the door knob being knocked around. The dog seemed to be having a hard time turning the knob, which wasn't surprising considering he didn't have thumbs. After a few minutes, Yuuri was about to let the dog out, when the door swung open, the dog's mouth around the door knob. His head was cranked to the side, and he stumbled as his weight pushed the door wide open.
Yuuri gulped, watching the dog get his footing. He seemed to be watching his own feet as he walked, stumbling every so often. He stopped a few feet in front of Yuuri, sitting on his haunches and cocking his head.
Yuuri wasn't sure what to say, so he awkwardly mumbled, "Uh did you wash your...paws?" He immediately felt ridiculous for saying something so idiotic, but the dog snorted and boofed in response, and Yuuri got the impression that he was being laughed at.
Logically, Yuuri thought that maybe he should be afraid. Maybe he should cast a spell to show the dog he could defend himself. Looking at the dog, though, it was hard to find anything to be afraid of. The dog was just staring at him, his bright blue eyes looking far too wise. He didn't know what else to do, so he focused on the dog and thought, Are you my Familiar?
The dog didn't react, showing no sign that he had heard Yuuri's thoughts. Yuuri frowned and tried again. What's your name? The dog still didn't move, blinking at Yuuri and letting out an inquisitive whine. Yuuri didn't know much about Familiars, since he had never actually been able to conjure one, but he did know that they weren't mute.
Yuuri sighed. "I guess you are just a weirdly smart dog, then."
The dog shook his head, and this time Yuuri couldn't mistake it for anything other than what it was. The dog made a couple of high pitched noises, then growled in frustration, like he was trying to explain something but couldn't.
"No...you're not a weirdly smart dog?" Yuuri tried to clarify.
The dog nodded, and Yuuri stiffened. This time, he did decide to defend himself. He tried to focus his magic, casting a spell and hoping it would be something useful defensively. At first, nothing happened, but then Yuuri blinked and he was suddenly teleported out of the main room, and into the bathtub. Surprised, Yuuri slipped in the still wet tub and bumped his chin on the side. He rubbed the spot tenderly as he carefully regained his footing, climbing out of the tub and dragging himself shamefully back into the main room. Yuuri was internally cursing himself for being born with wild magic, instead of elemental or enchantment or something actually useful.
The dog turned toward him, both ears perked and...eyebrows raised? “What are you, then?” He asked, returning to stand in front of the dog, still rubbing his now throbbing chin.
After a quick glance around the room, the dog trotted over to the desk, standing on his hindlegs so he could look over the top. He pawed around a bit, until he was able to roll a pen into the range of his mouth. The dog grabbed the pen and padded back to Yuuri, wagging his tail expectantly.
Yuuri blinked in confusion. The dog shifted around impatiently, growling quietly. He jerked his head, accidentally dropping the pen. This time, when he picked it up, he grabbed it by the end, holding the point forward. The dog made sweeping motions with his head.
"Is that supposed to be a weapon?" Yuuri questioned, and the dog shook his head, before resuming the sweeping motions. Yuuri watched for a few moments, before the realization hit him. "Oh! You're writing. You want to write something down?"
The dog's tail wagged furiously as Yuuri started to dig through the nightstand drawer, until he pulled out a notepad. He dropped the paper in front of the dog, who immediately started to write. Or at least attempt to write. The first sheet was so messy and full of scribbles that Yuuri had no idea what it said. He ripped the sheet off while the dog growled in frustration. The dog tried again, but the second wasn't any better, nor was the third, the fourth, until Yuuri stopped counting.
He sat on the bed eyeing his phone warily. Celestino was being nice and giving Yuuri space after yesterday's disaster, but he knew his coach would call eventually. Their flight was only a few hours away, and Celestino would want to make sure Yuuri ate before they left.
Finally, the dog let out a triumphant woof, looking up at Yuuri with expectant eyes and a wagging tail. Yuuri leaned over to read what the dog wrote, his eyes widening. The script was messy and the letters were overlapping, but Yuuri could clearly make out the individual letters:
Yuuri gaped at the dog. "Victor? Victor Nikiforov? The gold medalist?" The dog barked twice, looking excited. "What about him? Are you his dog?" Yuuri frowned in confusion. Victor didn't have a dog, as far as he knew. He had a Familiar that took the shape of a chocolate brown poodle, who was the inspiration for Yuuri's poodle, since he couldn't conjure his own Familiar. Yuuri suppressed a wave of grief at the thought of Vicchan, pushing the feeling away as much as he could.
The dog shook his head and pawed frantically at the paper, looking up at Yuuri. He didn't understand. Yuuri threw his hands up in frustration. "I don't know what you want from me! If you're looking for a sorcerer to help you, you came to the wrong place. I'm nothing, no one! I'm just a dime-a-dozen sorcerer from Japan that couldn't handle the pressure." He dropped back onto the bed, burying his face in his hands and sobbing.
Yuuri was startled as a wet nose nudged his hand. The dog put his head in Yuuri's lap, and Yuuri looked through his tear filled eyes to see the dog wagging his tail slowly and looking at Yuuri intently. He took deep breaths, running his fingers through the dog's silky fur. The dog sat with him until the tears dried, and his sobs turned into sniffles. Then, the poodle walked back to the notepad, putting a paw on it and staring at Yuuri.
Yuuri sighed. "I don't know what you--" he stopped mid sentence as a thought hit him. Silver fur. Distinctive blue eyes. It was impossible. It had to be impossible. Yuuri swallowed hard.
The dog yipped, and ran in an excited circle around the notepad. Yuuri's eyes widened. "You...you're Victor?"
The dog's tail wagged, and he nodded. Yuuri fell back on the bed, suddenly feeling nauseous again. "How? I don't understand. Your specialty is elemental magic, not transmutation!" He sat up again and looked at the dog, at Victor, who was a perfect copy of a standard poodle. It would have taken incredibly powerful magic to make the transformation possible.
Victor just whined. Of course, he wouldn't be able to answer Yuuri. "Ok, I have an idea," Yuuri said. "I'm going to ask you yes or no questions to try and figure out what's going on, ok?"
Victor nodded, his tail wagging. Yuuri swallowed hard. "Alright, first question: are you hurt?"
Victor shook his head, and Yuuri sighed in relief. He didn't know what he would do if Victor was injured. Who would he take him to? A vet? A physician? A cleric? It was definitely preferable that Victor didn't need medical attention.
"Next question," Yuuri continued, "did you turn yourself into a poodle on purpose?"
The poodle didn't move. Victor stared at Yuuri, then cocked his head. He didn't shake his head or nod, so Yuuri didn't know how to interpret his answer.
"Er...you did do this, right?" Yuuri tried.
Victor shook his head, very enthusiastically.
"Oh," Yuuri replied, trying to think of who could have done this. Was someone trying to eliminate the competition? "Was it another competitor? Were they trying to get rid of you? To get you out of the competition?"
Instead of answering, Victor sighed, and stared at Yuuri. It looked like he was trying to raise his eyebrows again.
Yuuri winced when he realized he had asked too many questions at once. "Sorry. Let me try that one at a time. Did another competitor do this?"
"Were they trying to get rid of you?"
Victor cocked his head again, watching Yuuri intently for a few moments, then shook his head.
Yuuri let out the breath he had been holding. "So you don't think they were trying to hurt you in any way?"
Without hesitation, Victor shook his head.
Yuuri felt infinitely better knowing that someone wasn't out there trying to hurt Victor Nikiforov. Still, that didn't solve the mystery. "Ok, did they do this for fun?"
Victor didn't respond.
Yuuri pushed down a wave of frustration. It wasn't exactly easy conversing with a dog. "Um let me try something else...did you ask to be transformed into a poodle?"
Victor shook his head.
"Ok, so you didn't do this as a joke or something?"
Victor shook his head again, growling lowly.
"I had to ask!" Yuuri insisted.
The poodle huffed in response.
"Alright, so you didn't ask for this, and you didn't do it as a joke, someone else transformed you, but not with malicious intent. Do I have that right so far?"
Victor nodded and yipped quietly with excitement.
Yuuri couldn't help the laugh that bubbled out of him. Victor really was a cute dog. "Ok. Do you know who did this?"
Victor nodded, and Yuuri felt hopeful.
"Can you write their name down? We could ask them to change you back."
Victor padded up to where Yuuri was sitting on the bed and placed a paw on his knee. Yuuri awkwardly patted his head in response, unsure what the poodle was trying to do. Victor just pawed at him again, harder this time. It hurt, because the poodle's nails were digging into his leg.
"Ow! Cut it out!" Yuuri scolded, pushing Victor's paw away. The poodle was not discouraged, immediately returning to pester Yuuri again. "Victor! Stop! I don't know what you want!"
Victor growled in frustration, but backed off. He stared up at Yuuri, holding a paw out, but not touching him. He pawed at the air, in Yuuri's direction.
"What are you doing?" Yuuri questioned, feeling exasperated. "Do you want something from me?"
Victor didn't respond, continuing to paw at the air in front of Yuuri.
Groaning in frustration, Yuuri tried again. "It's something about me?"
Victor nodded, still pawing in Yuuri's general direction.
"I don't remember anything that happened last night," Yuuri admitted. "If I saw something, or someone, I'm not going to know what it was."
Victor didn't respond, continuing the same motion.
Yuuri threw his hands up in frustration. "You could be trying to tell me anything!"
Victor growled, then finally stopped pawing at the air. He jumped up on Yuuri, one paw on each thigh, and stared at him. Yuuri leaned back in response, but maintained eye contact with the poodle. Victor whined, high pitched and desperate.
They stared at each other for what felt like forever, then Yuuri cleared his throat and asked, "I had something to do with this?"
Victor nodded frantically. Yuuri had to lean back further to avoid being bumped by Victor's snout.
Yuuri swallowed hard. He figured out what Victor was getting at, but it seemed impossible. "I couldn't have done this. I'm a terrible sorcerer as it is, there's no way I could transmute a person into an animal!"
Victor stepped off of Yuuri, sitting down in front of him and cocking his head.
“It’s true!” Yuuri insisted, swallowing hard. “You must have seen my match, everything went wrong!” He hugged his arms around himself. “I mean, everyone knows wild magic is unpredictable, but that was just ridiculous! I made myself burp up pink bubbles for an hour!” And that wasn’t even the worst of it.
Poodle-Victor whined softly.
“I’m sorry. I really am. But you must have me confused with someone else.”
Victor shook his head.
“But you do! I’m not skilled enough to transmute anything, let alone anyone. There’s no way I would have been able to cast a transmutation spell,” Yuuri said firmly.
Victor shook his head again.
Yuuri threw his hands up in frustration. “Well, what do you want me to do! Even if I had the skills to change you back, which I don’t, wild magic doesn’t work like that. I can’t just ask for transmutation magic and get transmutation magic. It’s random. Chance.” He winced. “Well, mostly. If it was all chance, my performance wouldn’t have been so awful,” he admitted.
Victor just blinked at him, and Yuuri sighed.
Most people, even other sorcerers, were woefully uneducated about how wild magic worked. Apparently, Victor was no exception. “While it is true that the product of wild magic is based on chance, it isn’t actually completely random, as most people think. All magic, to an extent, is influenced by emotion, and wild magic is no different. Plus, depending on how much of your energy you put into the spell, you can only have so many outcomes. Channeling a small amount of magic can never be enough for say, a tidal wave or,” he looked pointedly at Victor, “a human transmutation.”
Yuuri hoped that he was getting through to Victor, but the poodle was still just staring at him. He sighed again. “What that means for you is that even if I did transform you, I won’t necessarily be able to change you back.”
Victor’s whole body sagged. He hunched over, and his ears drooped pathetically. He looked like someone kicked him, or left him out in the rain. It made Yuuri’s heart clench painfully, because it reminded him so much of how Vicchan looked whenever he watched Yuuri leave.
Yuuri still didn’t really believe that he had managed to accidentally, drunkenly perform human transmutation, but he also didn’t believe that Victor had a reason to lie. His head was spinning, and he was trying to comprehend how he, Katsuki Yuuri, dime-a-dozen sorcerer from Japan, managed to perform one of the most difficult spells humanly possible, and not remember a second of it. This couldn’t happen to anyone else.
With a defeated sigh, Yuuri said, “Ok, I can’t help you, but I think I know someone who can.”
Victor perked up, his tail wagging. He padded over to Yuuri, pawing at him happily and making Yuuri chuckle. It did hurt, seeing a curly haired poodle face that kept reminding him of Vicchan, but Victor’s enthusiasm was contagious, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“My mentor might be able to--”
Yuuri was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Yuuri? Are you packed and ready to go?” Celestino’s voice called from the other side.
Gulping, Yuuri shot up and started darting around the room, grabbing all of his clothing and toiletries that were thrown about. “Um, just finishing up!” Yuuri lied, hoping it would buy him enough time to get his things together, and figure out what to do with Victor.
“Ok. Meet me in the lobby in 5 minutes. Don’t be late!”
“Yes, coach!” Yuuri called, pawing around under the bed for a lost sock. Victor appeared beside him, holding the sock in his mouth. Yuuri winced, because he knew how sweaty his feet got, but Victor just wagged his tail happily. Yuuri muttered a brief “thanks”, then tossed the sock into his luggage. The room looked clear, so he zipped up his suitcase, which was a bit of a mess, then turned to Victor.
“I have an idea,” Yuuri stated. “I think we should say that you’re my Familiar, and that you manifested last night. That way, no one will question why you’re so smart, and they won’t make you sit in a crate with the cargo,” Yuuri explained.
Victor nodded in approval.
Yuuri took a deep breath, then grabbed his suitcase and headed for the door. “Well, here goes nothing,” Yuuri muttered, holding the door open for Victor.
Victor padded past him, tail held high and practically prancing. At least he seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Victor?” Yuuri asked as they got into the elevator. “Speaking of Familiars, where’s Makkachin?”
Victor cocked his head.
“You don’t know?”
Victor shook his head.
Yuuri sighed. “Ok. One more mystery to solve.”
The elevator dinged, and Yuuri reluctantly stepped out into the lobby, Victor close on his heels. Celestino noticed him immediately, shooting him a confused look when he noticed the poodle at Yuuri’s side. He approached the pair and eyed them both. “What’s this?”
“I finally conjured a Familiar,” Yuuri claimed, hoping Celestino wouldn’t ask for details.
His coach’s eyes lit up. “That’s wonderful, Yuuri! Congratulations!”
“Thanks,” Yuuri replied flatly.
“This is excellent news!” his coach insisted. “You’ll be able to come back stronger than ever!”
Yuuri groaned. He hadn’t discussed his career plans with Celestino yet, and he hadn’t even decided whether or not he wanted to keep competing. At this point, it probably made more sense for him to just quit. Honestly, who would even want to see him compete again? Not to mention, if what he did to Victor got out, he would probably be banned from competition for life anyway. And probably sent to prison.
“Er...maybe.” Yuuri swallowed hard. “I was actually thinking I wanted to go home for a while. Back to Japan.”
Celestino frowned. “I know you’re upset about what happened, but you still have a chance at Nationals! Especially now that you have a Familiar to help channel your magic.”
Yuuri groaned again. Victor would definitely not be able to help him with his magic. He was basically just an ordinary, albeit intelligent, standard poodle. Celestino’s expectations were far too high. “It’s just been so long since I’ve been home. You could coach me through videos, and we could meet up for Nationals. I need a break.”
Celestino considered his proposal. “I’m not going to lie, I’m hesitant. I’m worried that you need some intensive training to get back in the game. I know how shaken you are.”
“I know. But I think going home for a while would be the best thing for me. It would help me relax, and I promise I won’t slack on my training,” Yuuri insisted. He did feel bad lying to his coach about his reasons, and he knew he’d feel even worse lying to his family, but the only person Yuuri knew that might be able to help Victor was back in Hasetsu.
After a few more moments of contemplation, Celestino finally relented. “Alright. If you think this is what you need. But if you start slacking on your training, I’m dragging you back to Detroit.”
Yuuri nodded. “Ok.” He glanced at Victor, who wagged his tail when he noticed Yuuri looking at him. It made Yuuri laugh quietly, thinking about that it was Victor Nikiforov wagging his tail and acting like a real dog. If only Yuuri could look at him without being reminded of Vicchan. The smile slipped off of Yuuri’s face, and Victor whined worriedly. Yuuri turned away from him, rolling his suitcase behind him and heading toward the waiting cab that his coach had hailed.
It had been remarkably easy to convince the airport officials that Victor was his freshly conjured Familiar. Victor was able to travel in the cabin with him, although he had to squish between Yuuri’s legs and the seat in front of them. Victor had growled disapprovingly as soon as he saw Yuuri’s cramped economy seat. People were curious about why the poodle didn’t just dematerialize for the duration of the flight, so Yuuri made up some excuse about how his Familiar was still settling into his material form. He didn’t know if that was a real problem for Familiars, but people seemed to accept it, to his relief. The last minute flight change almost hadn’t worked, and they’d been stuck in the airport for nearly 10 hours, so Yuuri was just grateful that there weren’t any extra complications.
Yuuri’s family had been pleasantly surprised when he called them and told them he was coming home. Since the plans were last minute, they weren’t able to get any time off from the inn to come and pick him up. Yuuri had planned on getting a taxi home, so he was surprised to see a familiar figure waving and calling his name in a sing-song voice.
“Yuuri! Welcome home!”
Yuuri sighed in relief, recognizing the voice as the one person he desperately needed to see right now. He motioned for Victor to follow him, then turned toward the figure trying to get his attention. “Minako! I’m so glad you’re here,” he said truthfully. This way, he wouldn’t have to track her down later.
Minako approached Yuuri and poodle-Victor, and Yuuri stood up straighter just on instinct. There was something about seeing his childhood sorcery instructor that always made him feel like he was about to get his posture corrected. “We were all surprised when we heard you were coming home,” she admitted, pulling Yuuri into a brief hug. “You’ve been gone for almost 5 years! That’s far too long without visiting.”
Yuuri pulled out of the hug. “Sorry.”
“Well nothing can be done about it now,” she said with a shrug. Her eyes flitted over to Victor. “What’s this?”
“That...is a long story. And something I need your help with, but I’d rather speak somewhere private,” Yuuri said carefully. He wished he could just cast an anti-eavesdropping spell, but his magic didn’t work like that. Basically, he was useless.
Minako frowned, but nodded. “Alright. We can talk in my car.” She gestured for them to follow.
Yuuri trailed behind Minako, Victor padding at his side and whining curiously. “Wait until we’re in her car,” Yuuri whispered to the poodle. He didn’t need to draw any more attention to himself. “So Minako--” Yuuri cut himself off, his eyes widening as he noticed the wall in front of him, plastered with posters of himself. It looked like he was almost dancing, a serene expression on his face. It must be photoshopped, he never looked that peaceful when he used magic.
“What. Are. Those.”
“Hm?” Minako followed his gaze. “Oh! Aren’t those great? Hasetsu is so proud of you!” She grinned.
Yuuri groaned, while Victor trotted up to one of the posters and wagged his tail. He looked at the poster, then back at Yuuri, panting happily. Yuuri ignored him, making a beeline for the exit of the train station, dragging his luggage loudly behind him.
“Come on, Yuuri! They’re nice!” Minako insisted, but Yuuri just kept walking until he was outside.
Minako and Victor joined him momentarily, Minako tsking at him in disapproval. He fell in behind her, following his former teacher to her car. She unlocked it and opened the trunk for Yuuri’s luggage. Yuuri opened the backdoor for Victor, then closed it and slid into the front seat.
Minako looked at Victor disapprovingly. “That poodle does not look magic. So he better not pee in my car.”
Victor made and offended sound (which was impressive for a dog), and Yuuri sent him an apologetic look. “Uh, you won’t have to worry about that.”
“You better be right,” she said seriously, shifting the car into reverse to pull out of the parking spot. Then, they were headed back to Yuuri’s home. “Now, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Well…” Yuuri said nervously, not quite sure where to start. “Er, you know Victor, right? Victor Nikiforov?”
Minako snorted. “You mean the Living Legend of competitive men’s sorcery and your childhood, teenage, and adult crush? Yeah, I know about him.”
Yuuri squeaked as Minako announced his crush on Victor, turning nervously to glance at the poodle in the backseat. At first, Yuuri thought he was snarling because his teeth were showing, but upon a second look, Yuuri realized his tail was wagging furiously and his eyes were shining. Victor was grinning at him.
“Uh yeah, that Victor,” Yuuri coughed awkwardly. “Anyway, something happened. With Victor. And me.”
Minako gasped, sounding surprised and delighted. “Yuuri! I didn’t know you had it in you!”
“What?” Yuuri questioned, totally confused.
“You banged your idol! Congratulations.” She sighed. “You really are growing up.”
“No!” Yuuri shrieked. “That’s not what happened! I didn’t say that!” He shot another look toward the backseat, where Victor was still grinning at him, his tail wagging faster now.
Minako huffed. “Then what are you talking about? Spit it out!”
Yuuri gulped. “I accidentally transformed Victor into a poodle and now I don’t know how to change him back!” he declared.
There was silence, a lot of silence, where Minako just stared straight ahead. Yuuri bit his lip, glancing at Victor again, whose tail had stopped wagging. Finally, Minako asked, “You mean this poodle?” Her voice was forcefully flat.
“Yes?” Yuuri said weakly.
Minako swatted at him. “I have Victor Nikiforov in my car and you didn’t tell me?”
“ That’s what you’re going to focus on?!” Yuuri asked disbelievingly.
“Well, it’s either that or focus on the fact that you transformed him into a dog!”
“I didn’t mean to!” Yuuri insisted.
“Of course you didn’t! But clearly it happened!”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, I need your help to fix it!” Yuuri said helplessly.
Minako sighed. “What do you want me to do? My specialty is conjuration, not transmutation.” She hummed contemplatively. “I don’t think I even know anyone in Hasetsu that uses transmutation magic. It’s not very common, because it’s so difficult.”
“I know,” Yuuri lamented. “That’s why I don’t understand how I did it.”
Minako hummed in contemplation. “I guess it must have been like any other spell. You used your magic, and by chance, it happened to be an advanced transmutation spell. What were you doing when it happened?”
“I don’t remember,” Yuuri admitted. “I was actually really drunk…”
There was a pause, then another sigh. “It seems that you take after your dad.”
“But he doesn’t use magic,” Yuuri reminded her.
“Not what I meant.” Minako snorted. “He gets blackout drunk too.”
“Minako! You’re not helping!”
“You’re not giving me much to work with,” she countered.
Yuuri made a frustrated noise. “It’s not like I planned this! I just need to know how to fix it!”
They pulled up next to Yutopia, and Minako took a few moments before she offered a response. “If you changed him into this, you can change him back. At least, theoretically.” She sighed. “You’re just going to have to cast spells and hope that one of them ends up being the right one.”
“But,” Yuuri protested, “there are thousands of spells out there. The odds of getting exactly the one I need are extremely slim.”
Minako shrugged. “Well, it’s either that or publically announce what you did and hope a skilled transmuter steps forward to help.”
Yuuri looked back at Victor. “If that’s what it takes…”
To Yuuri’s surprise, Victor shook his head.
“Why not?” Yuuri questioned, before remember how useless it was to ask poodle-Victor any kind of open-ended question.
“Because you’ll most likely be disqualified from the rest of the season,” Minako filled in. She turned the car off and turned to face Yuuri. “Actually, considering you happened to transform the sorcery world’s darling, you’ll probably get worse than that.”
“If that’s what it takes to fix Victor, I’ll deal with the consequences,” he said resolutely. “Besides, I should probably just retire anyway after that abysmal performance.” Yuuri’s shoulders sagged and he hung his head in shame.
Victor made a distressed noise and Minako grabbed his shoulder. “You can’t retire!” Minako insisted. “It was one bad performance, don’t give up!” Victor yipped in the backseat.
Yuuri pushed Minako’s hand off. “I’m not making any decisions now, but I’m thinking about it. Let’s just deal with Victor first.”
Minako sighed. “Fine. But we’re not done talking about you trying to retire.”
Yuuri ignored her, grabbing his bags from the open trunk. He pulled the door open for Victor, and the poodle hopped out, looking curiously around his surroundings. Victor sniffed all around, his eyes widening, and Yuuri realized Victor must be experiencing a dog’s sense of smell for the first time. If he ever managed to change Victor back, he’d have to ask what it smelled like. It would be fascinating to know what katsudon smelled like to a dog.
Dragging his suitcase toward the door, Yuuri braced himself to enter his childhood home. He paused at the door, gripping the handle on his luggage and biting his lip. This was his first time home in almost 5 years, and it would be his first time home without Vicchan here to greet him. He sniffled at the thought. There would be no clinking nails on the hardwood, no wet nose nudging his hand, and no wagging tail thumping against the door frame. No Vicchan. Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut, failing to keep the tears back.
Yuuri startled as a cold nose pressed against his arm. He turned, and there was Victor, wagging his tail slowly and staring at him with big, sad, puppy-dog eyes. He whined, and poked Yuuri again with his nose. Yuuri wiped at his eyes, but the tears didn’t stop. It reminded him too much of how Vicchan used to comfort him, and it hurt. Yuuri stepped away from Victor, staring resolutely ahead. He frantically wiped the tears away, hoping his eyes would be dry by the time he ran into his family.
“Look who I found!” Minako called from behind him, and Yuuri winced. He had hoped for a low-key homecoming, but there was no way Minako would let him get away with that.
With a delighted gasp, Yuuri’s mother burst into the room. “Yuuri! You’re home!” Hiroko ran toward Yuuri and pulled him into a crushing hug. She smelled like cooking oils and minerals from the hot springs. She smelled like home.
Yuuri returned the hug. He really tried to hold the tears back, but it was just too much. Being home, being held by his mother, after everything that had happened, he found himself crying into her shoulder. At some point, his father and sister appeared, and joined the hugging. It wasn’t quite the reunion he expected, but it felt good to be surrounded by his family again. He’d give his father and sister a proper greeting later, when things calmed down.
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri murmured, still holding onto his mother. Mari was patting his back soothingly. “I messed up. I messed up everything, and I let you all down.”
“You didn’t let anyone down,” his father insisted. “We’re all so proud of you.”
“But Vicchan…” he sobbed.
“What happened with Vicchan was an accident,” Mari explained. “No one could have predicted that he would slip out the door right as that car was coming.”
“I should have been here,” Yuuri replied miserably.
“Oh Yuuri,” his mother said sadly. “You couldn’t have known.” He didn’t respond, clutching at Hiroko tighter and letting his family’s warm embrace surround him.
Victor whined softly behind them, startling everyone enough that they flinched, and broke the hug. They all turned, their faces taking on various expressions of surprise and confusion.
“Who’s this?” Hiroko asked, holding out a hand to the silver haired poodle. Victor sniffed the hand, then nosed at her politely.
“Um,” Yuuri replied, sniffling. He glanced at Minako, whose jaw was tense. “I conjured a Familiar.”
Yuuri might be the only magic user in his family, but everyone knew how important a Familiar was to a sorcerer. “Congrats. It’s about time,” Mari said, giving him a supportive bump on the arm.
“He’s lovely. What’s his name?” Hiroko asked, patting the poodle on his head.
“Victor,” Yuuri said without thinking.
Yuuri’s family paused and looked at him, and Yuuri barely repressed the urge to face-palm. Of course they would find it weird that his new Familiar had basically the same name as his recently deceased dog.
Fortunately, Minako was quick to add, “Familiars pick their own names.” It was a lie, but his family shouldn’t know better.
“How interesting,” Toshiya responded, eyeing Victor curiously.
Victor wagged his tail, clearly happy about being the center of attention. He was really doing a good job as a dog. If Yuuri didn’t know better, he would actually just think Victor was someone’s Familiar. He had to wonder if Victor was responding purposefully, or if it was all instinct. Another question to ask him if Yuuri ever figured out how to change him back.
As if sensing Yuuri’s train of thought, Minako cleared her throat and said, “Yuuri, why don’t you put your luggage away so we can do that thing we need to do?”
“Oh, right!” Yuuri replied, gathering his luggage to take it to his room. “Sorry, Minako and I have something planned.”
Hiroko pouted. “But you just got back!”
“I know, but it’s really important,” Yuuri insisted.
Narrowing her eyes, Mari asked, “And what exactly do you have to do?”
“Er...it’s about my new Familiar,” Yuuri lied. “There’s some, um, acclimating we still have to do. I need Minako’s help.”
“It can’t wait?” Toshiya asked.
Minako shook her head. “I’m afraid not. Familiars are very particular.”
Yuuri’s parents nodded in understanding, but Mari didn’t look convinced. “Don’t worry,” Yuuri assured, “I won’t be back late.”
“Good, because I’m making katsudon!” Hiroko announced cheerfully.
Truthfully, Yuuri didn’t feel like he had earned katsudon, but he didn’t want to tell his mom that so he just smiled weakly. “I’ll make sure I’m back in time,” he promised. Yuuri turned to Minako. “Um, before we go, I just need a minute.”
Minako raised her eyebrows. “We’re kind of in a hurry, remember?”
“I know but…” Yuuri glanced at Vicchan’s leash, which was still hanging in its usual spot near the door.
Hiroko followed his glanced and made a sympathetic noise. “How about we take your belongings to your room for you so you have some time to make a quick visit?”
Yuuri smiled gratefully at his mom, who seemed to understand exactly what he wanted to do. Minako hesitated but ultimately agreed. While his family took care of his luggage, Yuuri started to make his way toward the room where he could pay his respects to Vicchan. He was interrupted by a confused whine, and it occurred to Yuuri that Victor probably had no idea what was going on, since he had been talking to his family in Japanese. Unless he had recently taken up the language, Victor wouldn’t have known what they were talking about.
“Oh,” Yuuri said in English, “I just need to take care of something and then we’re going to go with Minako. We’ll try and figure something out. Just...wait here.” Without waiting for any acknowledgement, Yuuri left Victor in the hallway. He heard another soft whine as he walked away.
He slipped into the small room, sliding the door closed and kneeling in front of the photo of Vicchan. It was a great photo, and Yuuri could clearly remember the day they took it. He had been so happy, and Vicchan had been so energetic and playful. It hurt to remember that he would never get to see that goofy expression ever again, or pet those soft curls. Yuuri sniffled, tears obscuring his view of the photo, taking a few minutes to just sit and remember his best friend.
“I’m so sorry, boy. I wasn’t here for you.” Yuuri curled his hands into fists, and wiped the tears away with the back of one hand. He didn’t have time to sit here and cry about Vicchan, he had to deal with his other mistake. Victor was relying on him to fix him. As much as he wanted to take his time saying goodbye to Vicchan, he knew he couldn’t. Once he and Minako figured out how to fix Victor, he could come back and spend as much time as he wanted saying goodbye and reminiscing about his companion.
“I’ll be back,” Yuuri promised. “I just need to fix something.” He swallowed hard. “I’m so sorry. I’m never here when you need me,” Yuuri said miserably, standing up suddenly and turning away from the picture. That hadn’t been nearly enough time for him to feel at peace, but it was all he could do right now.
When Yuuri exited the room, Victor was nowhere in sight. He wasn’t where Yuuri left him, and he wasn’t back in the entryway either. “Victor?” he called. There was no response, so he went further into the house. “Victor? Where are you?” he called again. Yuuri heard a short yip of acknowledgement, coming from the direction of his room. He went in that direction, calling out to Victor again. This time, the yip sounded a lot closer, and Yuuri could tell it was coming from his room.
Yuuri’s door was wide open when he reached it, and he stepped inside. His luggage had been set out and judging by the open suitcases, it looked like his mom had started to sort through his laundry. She had already hung up his combat armor, and stacked his spell books on his desk.
Victor was standing in the middle of the room with the same goofy look he had on his face in the car that made it look like he was grinning. He wagged his tail when Yuuri approached him.
“What are you--” Yuuri’s eyes widened. Victor was sitting in the middle of his room, surrounded by posters and pictures of himself. Well, his human self. How could Yuuri have forgotten about the posters?!
Yuuri made an almost inhuman noise. “Those are nothing! Just, uh, gifts!” He tried to push Victor out of the room, but the poodle just rolled over onto his back, panting happily. “It’s not what it looks like!” He grabbed Victor’s front paws, pulling him toward the door. It was a lot harder than Yuuri expected. Victor was a large dog, and he was wiggling around to make it harder for Yuuri to hold on to him. After a bit of a struggle, Yuuri managed to pull Victor through the threshold and dropped him. He scurried back into his room, slamming the door behind him. Victor whined and scratched on the door, while Yuuri frantically scrambled around his room to remove his Victor shrine. He carefully peeled each poster off the wall, stacking them and gingerly storing them on the top shelf of his closet.
Once all the posters were put away, Yuuri moved on to his magazines, framed pictures, and other collectibles. He hid them away in drawers and under his bed, purposefully ignoring Victor’s increasingly loud yips on the other side of the door.
He couldn’t, however, ignore the irritated pounding on the wood frame that was now drowning out Victor’s whines. “What part of ‘in a hurry’ don’t you understand?” Minako’s annoyed voice called through the door.
“Sorry!” Yuuri called back, stuffing his Victor body pillow under the bed. “I’ll be right there!”
After a quick sweep of the room, where he found and hid one more small stack of magazines, Yuuri threw on a cozy sweater, then rushed to the door. He threw the door open, and Minako was waiting on the other side, her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. Victor was still wagging his tail and looking far more pleased than a dog had any right to.
“I don’t know why you keep making me wait, I’m the one doing you a favor!” Minako reminded him.
“I know, I’m sorry. I appreciate it. It’s just been so long since I’ve been home.”
Minako’s expression softened, and she sighed. “Well, are you ready to go now?”
Yuuri nodded. “Yeah. Victor?” He turned to look at the poodle, who nodded.
“Right. Let’s go.” Minako waved them forward.
It was a quick walk to Minako’s studio, and Yuuri could tell that Victor was excited by all the sights and sounds. He kept darting around, his ears perked and tail waving excitedly. It made Yuuri chuckle, to see Victor looking so much like a real dog. At one point, Victor even took off after a squirrel. He didn’t catch it, and he returned to Yuuri and Minako looking a little sheepish. Minako just shook her head.
They arrived at Minako’s studio, and Minako let them in with a quick turn of her key. Yuuri was hit by a wave of nostalgia. This was where he had started to learn his love for magic. Minako was the first person to show him that sorcery was an art . Victor, of course, was the one that made him want to pursue competitive sorcery, but he never would have fallen in love with it without Minako. He had endless memories of practicing stances and forms in front of mirrors, while Minako corrected his posture.
Victor padded in behind Yuuri, glancing curiously around the room. It occurred to Yuuri that Victor may have never seen a magic studio before. As graceful as Victor was when he cast spells, he trained in an arena, not a studio, as most competitive sorcerers did. Yuuri was unique amongst his competitors, as he had originally studied performance magic, not combat magic.
“This is where I first learned magic,” Yuuri explained. “I used to want to perform, for my magic to be art.” He gestured to a picture of Minako, dancing around a field of wildflowers that she had conjured in the middle of the stage.
Victor looked up at the framed photo, which sat proudly on the wall. He looked back at Yuuri, cocking his head.
“You want to know why I changed my mind?” Yuuri guessed, and Victor nodded. With a sigh, Yuuri explained, “Wild magic isn’t exactly great for performance. It’s unpredictable, and you have to incredibly skilled to suppress the more violent spells. I almost quit using magic all together when my power manifested as wild magic. And then…” He trailed off, not wanting to tell Victor that the reason he had kept using magic at all was because of a teenager with cascades of silver hair that wielded his magic like a work of art instead of a weapon.
He went to step away from Victor, but Yuuri caught sight of his shining puppy-dog eyes, and Yuuri knew he was too weak to deny him anything. Vicchan used that trick on him all the time, and the effectiveness hadn’t faded. Plus, he kind of felt like he owed Victor for turning him into a dog; it didn’t seem fair to keep secrets. “And then I saw you,” Yuuri continued softly. “Elemental magic is usually so aggressive, so explosive, especially in the competitive circuit. But you made it look like an extension of yourself, almost like a dance rather than a duel.” Yuuri couldn’t help but smile at the memory of his twelve year old self huddled around a staticky television with Yuuko, gasping in delight as teenage Victor summoned a wall of ice with a graceful flick of his wrist. “You made me realize that I didn’t have to give up what I loved, that I didn’t have to be what everyone expected of me. From the moment I saw you, I wanted to do what you did, to face you in the arena as an equal.” His smile turned bitter. “Guess that last part didn’t work out so well for me.”
Yuuri finished his explanation, looking at Victor nervously. He didn’t know how Victor would react to Yuuri pouring his heart out. Victor whined, then trotted toward Yuuri and jumped up on his hind legs. He reached his front paws over Yuuri’s shoulders, and Yuuri had to take an involuntary step back to keep the poodle’s weight from knocking them over. Victor whined again, and Yuuri awkwardly wrapped his arms around the poodle in the most bizarre hug of his life. Still, it was a sweet gesture.
“Uh, thanks,” Yuuri said awkwardly.
A throat cleared from the adjacent room. “Can you wait to have your tender moment until after we’ve changed Victor back?” Minako asked impatiently.
Victor dropped back onto all fours, and Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Sorry. We’re coming.” The two of them joined Minako in the main room, which was brightly lit and surrounded by mirrors on all sides. It hadn’t changed from his childhood, and neither had Minako, who was wearing her usual stern teaching expression.
“Odette,” Minako called, and in a flash of light and feathers, a snow white swan appeared in front of them. The swan, stretched her wings and neck, the last of the light fading off of her plumage. Minako smiled softly at her familiar, staring at the swan in silence for a few beats. Yuuri figured they must be communicating telepathically, because the swan nodded, then shifted to her place at Minako’s side.
“Alright, Yuuri, stand there,” she gestured to one side of the room, “Victor, stand there,” she gestured to the other side. Both of them took up their positions. “Now, Yuuri, try and focus on the spell you want. Picture Victor as he should be.”
Yuuri closed his eyes, trying to do what Minako said. “Is this really going to work?”
“Don’t interrupt me,” she said harshly, and Odette honked irritably at him. “And I have no idea. But it seems like a better idea than just randomly casting spells.”
Yuuri couldn’t argue with her. He took a deep breath, and started to picture Victor’s face, his body, the way he moved through the arena like he was born for it. It wasn’t difficult, as the man’s face had been plastered on his walls for over a decade.
“Good. Take deep breaths, and feel your magic flowing through you. Channel it, focus it, and keep picturing Victor as a human,” Minako continued.
Yuuri did what he was told, breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth. This exercise was easy enough, as it was part of any competitive sorcerer’s early training. He felt the magic in his veins, swirling around inside him, pulsing with the beat of his heart.
“Now,” Minako said softly, “keep picturing the outcome you want, and cast a spell at Victor.”
With another deep breath, Yuuri held up his hand in front of him, channeling his magic. He didn’t know how much energy to use, so he tried to let the magic flow naturally through him. He pictured Victor, standing on the top of the podium, a gold medal shining around his neck. The magic prickled in his fingertips, and with a final exhale, he let go.
As soon as the spell was cast, Yuuri knew it wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right. Victor yelped in surprise, and Yuuri’s eyes shot open. A tiny stormcloud had appeared above Victor, and was drenching him with rain. He tried to run out of the range of the cloud, but it followed him, soaking the room. Yuuri cut off his magic, and the spell ended, the cloud disappearing into thin air. Victor turned and looked at him, growly lowly. The room was now filled with puddles, and Victor’s fur was dripping. He dragged himself over to Yuuri, and shook, spraying water all over him. Yuuri made a sound of protest, but Victor just gave him a flat look.
Minako sighed. “Well, that didn’t work.” She waved her hand, and conjured a bunch of large towels, Odette’s feathers ruffling as she helped channel Minako’s magic. “Get drying. I don’t water water soaking into the floor.” She tossed Yuuri a towel and the two of them got to work. Victor attempted to help by pushing a towel around on the floor, but mostly he was just leaving streaks of water everywhere. Minako eventually decided to distract him by conjuring a large fan so he could sit in front of it and dry off.
Once the room was dry, and Victor was moderately dry, Minako gestured to them to take up the same positions. “Let’s try again. This time, focus on the act of changing him back. You’ve seen transmutation spells, right?” She paused and waited for Yuuri to nod in confirmation, which he did, then continued, “Think about what that looked liked, what the magic in the air felt like. Direct those thoughts at Victor.”
Yuuri nodded, closing his eyes to focus his magic again. He remembered watching a sorcerer once transmutate himself into an eagle, and soar through the air. The magic had been so powerful, he could practically taste it in the air. He channeled that same feeling, once again raising a hand and aiming at Victor. He released his magic. It still felt wrong, and once again, Victor yelped in surprise.
This time, Victor was levitating, rising up until he hit his head on the ceiling. “Sorry!” Yuuri called, cutting of his magic. That turned out to be a very poor decision, because Victor immediately started dropping toward the ground. Minako managed to conjure a mattress in time to break his fall, but Victor still huffed at him. Odette was clearly not impressed, flapping her wings and honking at Yuuri.
They pushed the mattress out of the way, and set up again. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Minako reminded them. “Don’t get discouraged. This time, try channeling more energy. Transmutation, especially human transmutation, is very advanced. You won’t be able to do it without using a lot of magic.”
Yuuri nodded, closing his eyes again. Victor made a low groaning noise, sounding nervous. Yuuri couldn’t blame him. He did what Minako said, imagining Victor’s face, remembering the magic of transmutation that he had seen. Then, he focused inwardly, summoning all of his magic. Sweat appeared on his brow, and he held up both hands toward Victor. He let go.
Instead of a surprised sound, Victor yelped in panic, and Minako screamed while Odette squaked in alarm. The feeling of heat surrounded Yuuri and when he opened his eyes, he realized the room was engulfed in flames. He cut off the spell, which stopped the inferno, but flames were still licking at the corners of the room, and Victor’s fur was on fire. Thinking quickly, Minako conjured a fire extinguisher and doused a shrieking Victor in foam. Once he was no longer actively burning, she took care of the rest of the room, smothering the remaining flames, Odette’s feathers glowing as Minako used her magic.
The room smelled like burnt hair and plastic, and both Victor and Minako were looking at him with wide eyes. Odette hissed. Victor shook himself off, sending foam in every direction. He was covered in it, and some of his hair was singed.
“I...I’m so sorry,” Yuuri said weakly. He didn’t wait for a response, pushing past Victor and Minako and running out of the studio. He felt vaguely guilty for not staying to help clean up, but he didn’t imagine that either of them would really want him around right now.
Yuuri wasn’t thinking about where his legs were taking him, but unsurprisingly, they carried him to the place he always went when his anxiety was out of control. Ice Castle, the only sorcery arena in Hasetsu, looked just like it always did, and when he entered the lobby, a familiar face was sitting behind the counter.
“Welcome back, Yuuri,” Yuuko said without looking up from her paperwork.
“You saw me coming?” Yuuri was used to Yuuko’s divination magic leaving her one step ahead of everyone else.
Yuuko looked up and smiled. “Oh, I saw a lot more than that. You’ve really gotten yourself into trouble, haven’t you?”
Yuuri laughed dryly. “That’s one way to put it.”
Yuuko hummed contemplatively, making her way around the desk so she could pull Yuuri into a tight hug. “I haven’t had visions of what’s going to happen next, but my gut tells me it will all be ok.”
Yuuri returned the hug. “I hope you’re right.”
“I usually am.”
Yuuri laughed, genuinely this time. “That is true.”
Yuuko pulled back. “You didn’t come here to talk to me,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“Don’t feel bad, we have plenty of time to catch up.The training field is open and the basic supplies are set out for you,” Yuuko explained.
Yuuri smiled. “Thank you. I think I need some time to get out of my head a bit.”
Yuuko smiled in understanding. “That is exactly what you need.” She chuckled. “I made sure the girls stayed home so they wouldn’t bother you, but you definitely need to come and visit them. They’re your biggest fans! Wait until you see how big they’ve gotten!”
“I can’t wait. Thank you,” Yuuri said gratefully, waving as he walked away from Yuuko and into the main arena. He didn’t actually have any gear with him, but he was dressed comfortably enough for his work with Minako and Victor.
When he reached the edge of the field, he turned his phone off, which had half a dozen missed calls and twice as many texts from Minako, and placed it on a nearby bench. He set his glasses next to his phone, along with his sweater that he pulled over his head, then stepped onto the training field. Immediately, some tension left his body. It felt more like coming home than his actual home did, if he was being honest. The same training dummies from his childhood were stacked in the corner, familiar scorch marks and nicks carved into them. There were boulders in another corner, and a shallow pool in front of him. Ice Castle might not be the largest or grandest arena in the world, but it had served Yuuri well. He knew there were other obstacles and pieces of equipment stored away, probably collecting dust since no one was really interested in competitive sorcery in this town anymore. Still, what was out here was enough. Truthfully, an empty arena would have been enough, Yuuri just wanted a safe place to let his magic loose. Unlike Minako’s studio, Ice Castle had fire suppression systems and emergency anti-magic protections in place in case spells got out of hand. Here, he didn’t have to worry about getting out of control.
Yuuri took a deep breath at the center of the arena, letting his muscles relax and his eyes close. Dancing wasn’t a particularly useful skill in combat, so he really only got to do this when he had down time. As much as he loved competitive sorcery, sometimes he did wonder what his life would have been like if he had just pursued performance sorcery instead. Maybe if he was born as a conjurer like Minako, or even an enchanter. Anything besides wild magic.
Wild magic was, well, wild. Unpredictable. Dangerous. It took a lot of skill to master, and was easy to get wrong. Yuuri never asked for wild magic, he never wanted it. But he couldn’t hate it. He couldn’t hate the feeling of magic in his blood, nor the exhilaration of casting a spell. It was part of him, and it was essential, just like the air in his lungs.
Yuuri began to glide over the training field, sweeping an arm in front of him and letting the telltale tingle of magic flow through his body. He opened his eyes, and the water in front of him came alive, dancing alongside him and snaking through the air. A flick of his wrist, and the water swirled around him, an arm raised over his head and the stream followed. He gathered more energy, and the water began to take form.
First, it was three hamsters, Phichit’s hamsters to be exact. Yuuri laughed brightly, making the hamsters follow his steps. Then he shifted his concentration, and the hamsters morphed into a school of fish. He directed them in huge loops around the arena. He couldn’t send them into the stands, or the anti-magic protection would kick in and cancel his spell, but he skirted them just along the edge. A few droplets of water rained down onto him as he directed the fish over his head in a big sweeping motion. Yuuri let his mind wander, and the school of fish changed into the perfect likeness of a poodle.
It made his heart hurt and his anxiety flare, reminding him of Vicchan and Victor, who had both been let down by Yuuri. The water creating the poodle’s form quivered as Yuuri misstepped. He was able to recover, cutting off the magic and letting the water fall in a brief deluge on the other side of the field.
Yuuri took a deep breath, willing himself to recover. He twirled around, summoning his magic again, but tension was still gripping his body. When the spell was cast, for a moment, Yuuri thought nothing had happened. Then, a bicycle crashed to the ground in front of him, barely missing Yuuri’s head. Yuuri yelped in surprise, completely losing his concentration for a few beats, before gritting his teeth and falling back into the rhythm of the music that was playing in his mind. Conjuring a bicycle was a new one.
He held off on magic for a few more beats, just breathing, and feeling the flicker of energy within him. It helped him feel centered again, so he cast another spell. Nothing visible happened, but Yuuri could feel the buzz of magical energy in the air. He had probably cast some kind of enchantment spell. Hopefully, it would wear off before anyone walked onto the field. The last thing he needed was to accidentally charm someone into divulging all of their worst secrets or something.
Yuuri had only cut off the magic for a brief moment, when he reached inside again and cast another spell. A mirror image of himself appeared in front of him, following his steps. Yuuri smiled at the illusion, watching himself spin, and twist, and step around the arena. He held this one for a while, reveling in how easy it made it to critique his dancing and fix his form. He shifted the dance, spinning in toward the illusion, but never through it, to make it look like he was dancing with a partner. Without breaking his concentration, Yuuri cast a second spell. It was difficult, very difficult, and definitely put a strain on his body. He pushed on, letting the magic flow, and a dozen multicolored balloons began to appear in the air. Balloon conjuring was another new one, but it looked quite spectacular with the mirror image from his illusory self. Yuuri danced toward the illusion, close enough that the real balloons and the illusion balloons were indistinguishable, floating upward and casting colored reflections in every direction as the arena lights hit them. Of course, when the hit the anti-magic barrier on the ceiling, they all popped and disappeared into nothingness, but it was still a spectacular sight.
As the last of the balloons disappeared, Yuuri cut off the magic holding the illusion together, stopping in his final pose with both hands reaching upwards. He was panting from the effort, both from the dance, and the exertion of using so much magic. At first, the only sound in the arena was Yuuri’s harsh breath, then a voice broke through.
“Yuuri! That was incredible! I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Yuuri jolted at the voice. It was a very familiar voice, but it wasn’t a voice that Yuuri should be hearing right now. Without his glasses everything was blurry, but with enough squinting, Yuuri could make out a silvery form standing just inside the boundary line.
“Yes! It’s me! Isn’t this amazing?”
Yuuri rushed toward the silver blur. Did Victor somehow get changed back? He got close enough to make out a very distinctly canine form, and Yuuri sighed in disappointment. Victor was still a poodle. A poodle that was somehow now speaking to him. Yuuri retrieved his glasses to make sure he wasn’t missing anything obvious, but there was nothing, no one here besides Victor.
“How are you doing this?” Yuuri asked.
“I’m not doing anything. You are!”
“You cast a speak to animals spell,” Victor explained.
Yuuri’s eyes widened. “I did?” He thought back to the buzzing he had felt. It wasn’t far-fetched, but it was incredible timing that Victor just happened to be here when he was casting it. “How long have you been here?”
“Basically since the beginning,” Victor replied. “I missed the start but I think it was still your first spell. The water? Incredible! I’ve never seen anyone do that before with the different shapes!”
Yuuri’s face went tomato red. “You were watching that?!”
“Of course! Yuuko told me I had to, and that I needed to be inside the boundary.” Victor shifted from a standing to a sitting position. “She called Minako seconds after you left and told me to get here right away. I got a little lost, but she said she expected it.”
Yuuri cursed. Of course Yuuko was behind this. “She must have known I’d cast that talk to animals spell,” Yuuri reasoned.
“Is she a diviner?” Victor asked.
“I’m glad she told me to come. I’m so lucky that I got to see you perform like that!”
Yuuri got even redder. “No, it’s embarrassing! I can’t believe you had to see that.”
Victor cocked his head. “What was embarrassing about it? You were amazing!”
“I almost dropped a bicycle on myself!”
Victor looked like he was trying to shrug. “So? Wild magic is unpredictable. It’s not like you could have guessed what you were going to cast. I didn’t even know ‘summon bicycle’ was a spell!”
“Neither did I,” Yuuri muttered. “But still. I’m supposed to do combat magic. None of this is any use in combat.”
“I beg to differ.”
Yuuri gave Victor a confused look. “How so?”
“I’ve never seen you so calm during a match. Your emotions get the best of you, and that’s your downfall. You can’t control your magic, or your spells backfire.”
Yuuri’s eyes widened. “You...you’ve watched me?”
Victor nodded. “Of course! You’re my competition, I had to be prepared in case we drew together.”
Yuuri shuddered at the idea of if he had drawn to face Victor during the GPF. “I had no idea you knew who I was. I...I thought you mistook me for a fan,” Yuuri admitted.
“When you asked me if I wanted a photo.”
“I asked you for a photo because I thought you looked sad.” Victor sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m very bad at dealing with people who are upset. It was a stupid idea to cheer you up.”
“So...you knew who I was the whole time?”
“Oh.” Yuuri wasn’t sure what to do with all that information. Victor Nikiforov knew who he was, and had watched him compete. “Then you know what a mess I am.”
“I don’t think you’re a mess. I think you’re amazing!” Victor exclaimed. “I always admired the way you moved on the field, but I’ve never seen you do anything like this before! It was like I could hear the music in your head right along with you, like you were making the music with your body.”
Yuuri looked at the ground, pointendly ignoring the fact that Victor said he admired something about Yuuri. “Not a particularly useful skill for a competitive sorcerer.”
“I still disagree.”
“I told you, I’ve never seen you so calm before. Why don’t you try this during a match?”
Yuuri laughed dryly. “So people can watch me dance my way around the field instead of fighting? I don’t think so.”
“Then do both.”
Yuuri gave Victor a look. “That’s ridiculous.”
“No, it’s not. Sure, balloons and unnecessary speak to animal spells probably wouldn’t help, but think about what you could have done with that water! You had amazing control,” Victor complemented. “Or that illusion. You could have totally thrown your opponent off.” He hummed in contemplation. “Actually, the balloons could have helped too. That would have been an excellent distraction. And if your opponent was in the right place, the bike could have fallen on them!”
Yuuri was speechless. He had never thought about using his performance background in combat before.
Victor wasn’t done, and wasn’t discouraged by Yuuri’s lack of response. “I’m guessing you were holding back on your energy usage too,” Victor said contemplatively. “If you cast a few bigger spells while you were that calm they’d probably be incredibly powerful.”
Victor yipped happily, then seemed to duck his head in embarrassment. “Sorry. I think I’ve been picking up a few doggy habits. I’m just excited! Promise me you’ll try combining them sometime?”
Yuuri wanted to say no, but Victor was staring at him with those puppy-dog eyes again, and Yuuri was a weak, weak man. He sighed. “Ok. I’ll try.”
Victor barked in triumph, and Yuuri couldn’t help but chuckle in response.
“So...how long do we have before the spell wears off?”
“Not sure,” Victor admitted. “I didn’t see what time you cast it. I can’t exactly wear a watch.”
“Uh, right.” He swallowed hard. “Victor?”
“I’m really sorry.”
Victor cocked his head. “About what?”
Yuuri gestured toward Victor. “For this. For turning you into a dog! You must hate me.”
“Oh. I don’t mind,” Victor responded. “Actually, it’s kind of nice. No one expects anything of me, and people keep scratching this spot behind my ears that’s absolutely divine.”
“But I’m keeping you from practicing and Russian Nationals are just around the corner!”
Victor was oddly silent for a few moments, before sighing. “Honestly, I’m glad.”
Yuuri gaped at him. “What? Why? Don’t you want to win another medal?”
Victor furrowed his eyebrows. “Not really. I have plenty.”
“But...you’re Victor Nikiforov. The best competitive men’s sorcerer in the world.”
With a sigh, Victor’s head drooped. “And that’s all I am. To everyone,” Victor said so quietly that Yuuri almost missed it. “I...I’ve honestly been thinking of retiring,” Victor admitted, and Yuuri barely suppressed a gasp.
Victor nodded sadly. “Yeah. I...I’ve lost the love I had for sorcery. Everyone just keeps expecting me to surprise them, to win, and win, and win. People only get close to me when they want something, or so they can say they had a night with the ‘Living Legend’.” Victor sighed. “I don’t even know what parts of me are real anymore, and what parts are a persona.”
Yuuri was stunned by Victor’s admission. “I had no idea you were struggling so much.”
“Of course not. That’s the point. No one was supposed to know,” Victor whispered, his ears and tail drooping. He looked up at Yuuri. “But then I met you. You swept me off my feet at the banquet, and whisked me off on the most ridiculous, incredible adventure of my life.”
“I’m pretty sure I was just a drunken idiot at the banquet,” Yuuri corrected him.
“Drunk, yes. Idiot, no.” Victor’s eyes were shining with emotion. “As much as I would like to be human again so I can use a toilet properly, I’m not sorry that this happened. It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in years!”
Yuuri couldn’t help but chuckle at Victor’s enthusiasm. “Then, you’re welcome? I guess?” The smile slipped off his face as quickly as it had come. “I’m sorry about today, too.”
“It’s alright,” Victor insisted. “I know you can’t really control wild magic.”
Yuuri made a frustrated noise. “And that’s exactly why I might not be able to change you back. We should just find a transmuter to fix this.”
“Absolutely not,” Victor said resolutely.
“Because I don’t want you to get in trouble! This was an accident, and I don’t trust that it won’t be blown up into some big scandal.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Yuuri replied sincerely. “But I also don’t want you to be trapped as a dog forever. I did this, and I have to take responsibility, even if that means I get in trouble.”
“How about this,” Victor said reasonably, “I’ll tell you if it gets to be too much, ok? We’ll have a signal. I can...spin in a circle three times, and then you’ll know I can’t take it anymore.”
Yuuri considered Victor’s offer, then nodded. “Alright.”
Victor held out a paw. “Shake on it?”
Yuuri smiled, gently gripping Victor’s fluffy paw. “It’s a deal.”
“Great!” Victor said cheerfully, pulling his paw back.
“So...what’s it like being a dog?” Yuuri asked curiously.
“I can smell everything,” Victor replied, awestruck. “It’s incredible.”
Yuuri suddenly remembered one of his earlier thoughts. “Oh! That reminds me, you’ll have to tell me what my mother’s katsudon smells like to you if...when we change you back. It’s what she’s making tonight and it’s my favorite.”
“Ok,” Victor agreed.
“Is there anything else you need? Anything else you want to tell me while you have the chance?” Yuuri questioned.
“Just don’t make me go to the bathroom outside, it’s humiliating! And brush my fur if it gets tangled. I can’t go out into public looking like some common cur.”
Yuuri chuckled. “That’s fair.”
“Can you also tell my coach...something? He is probably worried sick. Don’t tell him what’s going on, make up an excuse.”
Yuuri raised an eyebrow. “You want me to call Yakov Feltsman and lie to him?”
“Yes. Don’t tell him the truth, or he will send a transmuter here himself.”
“Are you sure you don’t want that?” Yuuri asked again.
“Honestly, this has been a nice vacation so far,” Victor admitted. “I’m sure it will grow old eventually, especially not having opposable thumbs, but I think I’m really going to enjoy spending some time away from the arena. No one can give me any responsibilities, because I’m a dog!” he said jovially, his tail wagging.
“If you’re sure…”
“I am,” Victor replied firmly. “Oh,” he said, changing the subject. “Can I ask where you went earlier? When we were in your house and you told me to wait? I’ve been very curious to know.”
Yuuri’s face fell. “I…”
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“No, it’s alright.” Yuuri swallowed hard. “I just wanted to say a quick goodbye to my dog, Vicchan. He died right before the GPF.”
Victor whined. “That’s terrible! I can’t believe you competed after that, you’re so brave.”
Yuuri shook his head, tears filling his eyes. “I’m not. I wasn’t here for Vicchan, and then I let everyone down.”
“I know I don’t really know your family, but you definitely didn’t let them down. I heard them telling some English-speaking guest about how amazing you are, and how proud they are.”
Victor nodded. “Really. You have so much love and support here, I have to admit I’m jealous.”
“Well, when we get this whole thing figured out, you should meet them properly. I bet they’d like you.”
Victor wagged his tail. “Oh, that sounds lovely! I want to--” Victor’s voice fell away, replaced by barking and yipping. He went silent, then made a frustrated sound.
“Guess our time is up,” Yuuri said with a sigh. “We should probably go home anyway, my mom will be upset if we’re late.”
Yuuri gathered his belongings, pulling his sweater over his head and turning his phone back on. He sighed as notifications from Minako filled his screen. “Guess I better call Minako back too.”
Victor looked a little solemn, so Yuuri smiled encouragingly. “Hey. Thanks for everything you said. It means a lot, especially coming from you.”
Victor perked up, his tail wagging. He nudged Yuuri with his nose, and Yuuri chuckled, reaching behind his ears to scratch that spot Victor mentioned. Maybe, just maybe, everything would turn out ok after all.
Social media was starting to panic about why Victor had been silent for nearly 72 hours. He normally posted daily on Instagram or Twitter, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed that Victor had missed his scheduled post-competition interviews as well. Yakov Feltsman hadn’t made any statements, but when Yuuri pulled up an interview with him, even he could tell that the old coach looked strained as he barked “no comment!” in heavily accented English. Victor whined in distress as the video.
There was speculation floating around various social media sites that Victor was injured. Some people were even claiming that they saw him being kidnapped and thrown into the back of a van. A few posted blurry photos of shining lights, claiming it was photographic evidence of Victor being abducted by aliens. Yuuri thought it was a tad ridiculous that the fans were getting so worked up after only a couple days, until he remembered that he was a fan, and he’d be freaking out too if he didn’t know that Victor was safe and sound in Hasetsu. The one time Victor didn’t post for 24 hours, because he was in the hospital with food poisoning, Yuuri had been a wreck all day. Victor was never silent on social media, and was always transparent about when he had to drop out of a competition. It didn’t happen often, but even the best sorcerer in the world got sick or injured sometimes.
Yuuri was a little surprised that Yakov wasn’t raising the alarm, but he guessed the old coach must have his reasons for not wanting to reveal that Victor was missing. Still, he had promised Victor that he’d call Yakov, and he didn’t want people to start panicking and think Victor was dead in a ditch somewhere.
Victor wrote down the number on a pad of paper, just like he had done with his name, and it didn’t take nearly as long to make it legible this time. Victor looked triumphant as Yuuri read the numbers back to him, seeming proud of his work.
Summoning his courage, Yuuri dialed the number, and a gruff voice answered in Russian after a few rings. “Um, Coach Feltsman?”
“Speaking,” the voice replied in English.
“This is Katsuki Yuuri, the Japanese sorcerer from the GPF.” There was silence on the other end, so Yuuri continued, “You probably don’t know who I am--”
“I know who you are,” Yakov responded. “I just don’t know why you’re calling me.”
“Right.” Yuuri replied. The phone was on speaker, so Victor was listening to the exchange, snorting at Yuuri’s awkwardness. Yuuri gave him a look. “I just wanted to call you to let you know that Victor is here, in Hasetsu. Um, my home town. He didn’t want you to worry.”
There was a pause, then Yakov responded, “And he couldn’t call me to tell me this himself?” Yakov sounded suspicious.
“He, uh, has been pretty adamant about not using his phone.”
“And why is that?” Yakov questioned, sounding more suspicious.
Yuuri gulped. He really should have put more thought into this before he called. He glanced at Victor, who whined quietly. Victor had told him not to tell him the truth, but he didn’t specify which truth. Yuuri didn’t know exactly what Victor’s relationship with his coach was, but he knew that they had been working together since Victor was a child. He vaguely remembered Victor explaining in an interview that Yakov was like family. If that was true, hopefully what Yuuri was going to say wouldn’t burn any bridges between them, or reveal something Victor wasn’t ready to say.
“To be honest, he said he doesn’t want anything to do with competitive sorcery right now,” Yuuri said with as much confidence as he could muster. Victor cocked his head. “He wanted me to tell you that he’s ok so you didn’t worry, but he said he’s been having a hard time finding inspiration. He’s really burnt out.” Yuuri paused, letting the words sink in. “He said...he needs a break. He wants to find his love of magic again.”
There were a few beats of silence, then Yakov sighed. “Oh, Vitya.” He sounded surprisingly tender for a man with such a rough reputation. “When I told him to take a break, I didn’t mean to run off without a word just before Russian Nationals.”
Yuuri let out the breath he was holding, feeling relieved that Yakov seemed to be buying his story. “He seemed sorry.”
Yakov snorted. “He’s not. Don’t believe his pout.”
On cue, poodle-Victor pouted, and Yuuri barely suppressed a laugh. “I’m sorry for any trouble he or I have caused you.”
“I suppose I should thank you for letting Victor stay with you. He seemed quite taken with you at the banquet.”
Yuuri blushed. “Uh, sure. No problem.”
“Now if only he could just tell me what’s going on in that air-filled head of his instead of making my blood pressure spike,” Yakov said irritably.
Victor responded with an offended noise, and Yuuri waved a hand to shush him. “I’ll make sure Victor knows you were worried.”
“Exasperated is the word I would choose. It’s always the word I choose when it comes to Victor.” The old coach was speaking sharply, but Yuuri could hear hints of fondness in his tone. “We’ve all been running around trying to figure out where he went. We even have the police involved, and we were thinking about breaking the story on social media so there would be more eyes looking for him. I can’t believe he was so irresponsible! Tell him he’s an irresponsible child!”
“I’ll tell him that too,” Yuuri promised, glancing at Victor. It was a little jarring to hear how worried everyone had been.
“Good. And Katsuki?”
“I don’t care what kind of meditative bullshit Victor is up to, you tell him he needs to call me.”
“He can take some time to recharge or relax or whatever it is he needs, but I want to hear in his own words, in his own voice if he’s not coming back. You got that?”
“Yes, sir.” Maybe Yakov wasn’t buying the story as much as Yuuri thought he was.
“Good. If I don’t hear from him before Russian Nationals, I’m flying out there myself to give him a piece of my mind,” Yakov promised, and Yuuri believed him.
Yuuri and Victor exchanged a look. It seemed that they had just been given a deadline for turning Victor back. “Ok, I’ll pass the message along.”
Yakov just grunted in response, hanging up the phone.
Yuuri tried not to panic. “That’s not enough time!”
Victor whined, placing a paw on Yuuri’s knee in what seemed to be a comforting gesture. Yuuri pushed the paw away, pacing around his room. “Maybe...maybe we could cast another speak with animals spell, and I can just hold the phone up for you.”
Victor yipped excitedly, his tail wagging. He seemed to like that idea.
“Speak with animals is a...divination spell?”
He grabbed his jacket, gesturing for Victor to follow him. “Come on! Let’s see if Yuuko knows it!” As they were sprinting out the door toward the Nishigori household, it occurred to Yuuri that he could probably just call Yuuko, but it seemed a bit late for that now. The two of them ran through town, and eventually skidded to a stop in front of Yuuko and Takeshi’s door, both of them out of breath. Yuuri raised his fist to knock, but the door swung open before he could make contact with it.
Takeshi was grinning at them from the other side of the door. “Right on time. Come in!” He gestured for them to come inside, then turned to call over his shoulder, “They’re here!”
There was a holler of acknowledgement from somewhere in the house, and then Yuuri was being pulled into a bear hug. “Yuuri! It’s been too long since you’ve been home!”
Yuuri struggled, trying to find a position that wasn’t crushing his air supply. “It’s good to see you too!” he wheezed at his old friend.
“Quit smothering him,” Yuuko called as she joined the group. “Let them come in. Yuuri has a question for me.”
Takeshi released Yuuri, but only after ruffling the hair on his head. Yuuri swatted at him in response. He smoothed his hair back into place, then followed the Nishigoris into their home. Yuuko led them into the kitchen.
“I’m just in the middle of making lunch,” she explained.
Yuuri looked around. The house seemed far too quiet for being home to triplets. “Where are the girls?”
Yuuko gave him a look. “School. It’s the middle of the day.”
Takeshi pat him on the back, roughly, causing Yuuri to stumble forward. “They’re your biggest fans, you know!”
After Yuuri recovered, he chuckled. “Yeah, Yuuko mentioned that. Have they manifested any magic yet?”
Yuuko sighed, looking exasperated. “They’re all starting to. I can’t figure out who is doing what, but one of them keeps setting things on fire, another keeps charming other kids into giving up their dessert, and another keeps bringing home bones. I do not want to raise a necromancer!”
Yuuri laughed. “I can’t say I envy you. That sounds like a lot of work.”
“They’re a handful,” Takeshi agreed. “I keep hoping whoever is setting things on fire is using matches instead of magic, so then maybe we can have someone else that’s a normal non-magic user like me.”
Yuuri snorted. “I don’t think ‘normal’ is a word I would use to describe you.”
Yuuko laughed. “Agreed.” She turned toward Victor. “I’m sorry,” she said in English, “we’re being incredibly rude to you.”
Victor’s eyes were glazed over. He had definitely not been able to keep up with their rapid-fire Japanese. “Sorry. I haven’t seen Takeshi in a long time,” Yuuri explained.
Victor wagged his tail, and Yuuri took that to mean that everything was forgiven.
“So,” Takeshi continued in English, gesturing toward the poodle, “this is Victor, huh? You know Yuuri, you could have just asked your idol out to dinner instead of turning him into a dog.”
Yuuri blushed. “That’s not, I mean, I didn’t…”
“Relax, Yuuri,” Yuuko said, giving her husband a sharp look. “Takeshi is just teasing. Right?”
Takeshi grinned, and Yuuri rolled his eyes.
“You’re both terrible. Now, can we get back to business?”
Yuuko nodded. “Yes. I had a vision that you’d come here to ask me something, but I didn’t see what.”
Yuuri glanced at Victor. “Do you know a speak to animals spell? It’s a divination spell, right?”
Yuuko looked sad. “It is, but I’m sorry, I don’t.”
“Oh,” Yuuri responded, disappointed, and Victor whined softly beside him. “I don’t suppose you know anyone that does?”
Yuuko hummed in contemplation, handing the knife she was using to chop vegetables over to Takeshi so she could focus on the conversation at hand. He took over preparing lunch, while Yuuko wiped her hands on a dishtowel and turned to fully face Yuuri and Victor. “I don’t think so. Diviners aren’t very common anymore. But,” she said hopefully, “there are quite a few commercial diviners that know that spell. People like to pay them to talk to their pets.”
“I didn’t even think about that. Where’s the closest one?” Yuuri pulled out his phone, doing a quick Google search. There were none nearby, the closest being all the way in Tokyo. “Not that close. But, it’d be worth it for a day trip on a plane.”
“Just make sure you book in advance. I’ve been told spots fill up really fast,” Yuuko explained.
Yuuri nodded. “There’s an availability calendar on this website, I’ll just check.” He clicked through the website, his brows furrowing as he kept scrolling. He looked up at his friends when he found the first available appointment. “Three months. The first appointment is three months away.”
“Maybe they have a cancellation list?” Takeshi suggested.
“Good idea. I’d better call.” He dialed the number, and a nasally voice answered on the second ring. He explained what he was looking for, then frowned as the receptionist told him that the cancellation list was nearly as long was the waiting list for appointments. He thanked her and hung up the phone.
“Not good?” Yuuko asked.
Yuuri shook his head. “No, not good.” He looked up at Victor. “Sorry, I guess we just have to keep trying to change you back, or hope that I cast another speak to animals spell.”
Victor nodded, the poodle’s curls bouncing on his head with the movement.
“Sorry, Yuuri,” Yuuko said sympathetically. “You’re welcome to use the arena while you try and change him back.”
Yuuri smiled gratefully. “Thank you. I think Minako would appreciate that, she’s still mad at me for scorching her studio.”
Yuuko laughed. “I believe it.” She turned back toward Victor. “I don’t think we’ve met properly, by the way. I’m Yuuko, and this is my husband Takeshi. We’re old friends of Yuuri’s.” She held out a hand, and Victor extended a paw to shake.
“My wife’s a big fan. If you were in human form she’d probably be freaking out,” Takeshi explained, and Yuuko sent him a dirty look.
Victor yipped in response, wagging his tail.
Yuuri sighed. “Well, since our plan didn’t work out, I guess we better get to work. When is the arena open for us?”
Yuuko smiled. “We already reserved times for you.” She pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to Yuuri. “Plus, I know you’ll be there in the middle of the night anyway. Just clean up when you’re done.”
“Thank you,” Yuuri replied with a smile. He turned back to Victor. “Looks like it’s open for us now. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.”
Yuuko chuckled. “Yup, not planned at all.”
Yuuri waved goodbye to his friends, gesturing for Victor to follow him. The smile slipped off his face as soon as they stepped out the door. “I’m sorry. I thought that would work.”
Victor whined, nosing at Yuuri’s hand. Yuuri patted his head in response.
“I guess we go back to plan A?”
With a sigh, Yuuri said, “Alright then, let’s head to the arena. I’ll call Minako.”
Minako was relieved to hear that her studio was safe from any more magical mayhem, and she quickly agreed to meet Yuuri and Victor at Ice Castle. It was a short walk, and the person behind the desk didn’t give Yuuri any trouble, recognizing him instantly. They went right into the locker room, where Yuuri had a stash of training clothes, then walked out toward the field. Minako was already waiting for them, Odette ruffling her feathers uneasily at her side. Clearly she hadn’t forgotten the last time she’d met Yuuri.
She narrowed her eyes at Yuuri. “Don’t run away this time.”
Yuuri gulped. “I won’t. I promise.”
Yuuri and Victor stepped onto the field, while Minako stood safely on the other side of the magical barrier. She clapped her hands once. “Alright then, let’s get to work! Take up positions on opposite sides of the field.” Both of them complied. “I have a new idea. Instead of feeling the magic within yourself, try to feel the magic within Victor.”
Yuuri looked at Minako curiously. “How’s that going to help?” His voice echoed in the mostly empty arena.
“I have no idea, but it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
It wasn’t like anything else they had tried had worked, so Yuuri shrugged and closed his eyes. Channeling his magic was second nature now, so it was not difficult to extend himself so he could feel the energy flowing through Victor. At least, in theory. He had never tried tapping into someone else’s magic before. He knew it was possible, because there high level spells that required access to another’s magic, but it wasn’t something he’d practiced.
“Do you feel it?” Minako called.
“Good. Now, cast.”
Yuuri bit his lip. He really didn’t feel anything at all, but he cast the spell anyway, pointing a finger in Victor’s direction. He didn’t hear any screaming or yelping, so he took that as a good sign. Yuuri opened his eyes to assess what had happened. Victor was still standing in front of him, one paw raised slightly above the ground, and his head tilted to the right.
“I guess nothing happened. At least I didn’t set you on fire.”
Victor didn’t answer, nor did he move.
The poodle was still frozen in place, not even blinking. Yuuri ran toward him, and Victor didn’t respond at all. He cut off the magic, but the spell didn’t fade. Victor was still frozen in place.
“Minako! What do I do?”
“Relax,” she responded. “It’s just some kind of immobilization spell. It will wear off.”
Yuuri let out a sigh of relief. He wasn’t sure how long the spell was going to last, so he sat down next to Victor. He also didn’t know if Victor could hear him, but he didn’t want to keep sitting around in an awkward silence, so he started talking. He told Victor about training in Detroit with Phichit, and he talked about Vicchan. Yuuri recounted his first competition, and how he’d been so nervous he’d thrown up. He told Victor stories about training with Yuuko, and how Takeshi had gone from being a childhood bully to a close friend. He didn’t know how long he talked, but his mouth was dry and his throat was starting to feel raw. It felt like the spell might never wear off but eventually, Victor’s paw twitched, and he was able to set it down. Victor shook himself off, looking a little disgruntled.
“Are you ok?”
Victor nodded, stretching out his limbs and then shaking again.
“We can stop if you want,” Yuuri offered.
Victor shook his head without hesitation.
“You want to keep going?”
Standing up, Yuuri dusted himself off and turned to walk back to his spot on the field. He looked at Victor over his shoulder. “Could you hear any of that?”
Victor nodded again.
Yuuri felt his cheeks getting hot. “Oh. That’s good. Fantastic. Ok.” He mentally facepalmed, then dragged himself back to his starting position, turning to face Victor once more.
“You could have just carried him over the barrier to cut the spell off,” Minako reminded him.
Yuuri groaned in frustration. “I was afraid to move him. I don’t know what I cast.”
Minako shrugged. “Fair enough.” She sighed. “Just...do something. I don’t know,” she called, sounding slightly disappointed.
He tried to shake off the anxiety, and the embarrassment, but Yuuri could still feel it simmering just below the surface. Pushing his emotions aside, Yuuri gritted his teeth and cast another spell in Victor’s direction, not thinking about anything except how desperately he wanted to fix everything. Yuuri watched as Victor’s fur changed from a dazzling silver to a blinding rainbow. There were splotches of color all over him in varying patterns and shades. Yuuri was pretty sure he wouldn’t even be able to see most of those colors with his doggy vision.
Victor looked confused at first, until he caught sight of a leg. He frantically looked over at his other leg, then spun around so he could look at his body, whining the whole time. Once he had seen everything, Victor sat back on his haunches and howled, like he was in mourning.
“It’s ok! I think it looks great!” Yuuri said as comfortingly as he could, but Victor was too busy wailing to hear him.
Minako swore from somewhere behind him, and then there was a small round object whipping past his head. It hit Victor right on the snout, breaking him out of his misery with a surprised yip. Both of them looked back at Minako, who was holding what Yuuri realized was a handful of marbles.
“I will throw another!” she threatened. “Just step off the field and it will change back!”
Victor growled, nudging the marble that had hit him away with his paw. His ears were pinned back, but he did as Minako suggested, glaring at her the entire time. Odette hissed, but Minako didn’t say anything in response. Victor’s fur changed back to silver as soon as he stepped over the boundary line, then he returned to his starting position.
Yuuri reset himself, and tried again. Smokescreen. And again. Stoneskin. And again. Silence (Minako liked that one). And again. Yuuri got taller. And again. Victor started bleating like a sheep. And again. Victor stumbled around in confusion. And again. A unicorn appeared and chased Victor around the field. And again. An extra arm popped out of Yuuri’s back.
Yuuri groaned in frustration. Maybe he needed to try releasing more energy. Hopefully this time he wouldn’t set everything on fire. He shouted a quick warning to Victor, who braced himself, then started casting. The third arm kept smacking him on the head, and he found he didn’t actually have any control over it. He hoped it would disappear soon, because it was really hard to cast while something was flicking his ear and trying to pick his nose.
The energy kept building, and Yuuri released a powerful wave of magic. His lungs felt like they were going to burst, and then the most horrible noise he had ever heard bubbled out of his throat. He couldn’t stop it. Victor shrieked in pain, and dropped to the ground. Yuuri desperately tried to cut off the flow of magic, but it took multiple tries to end the spell. When he finally stopped the scream, he took a few gasping breaths, then ran full speed toward Victor’s limp form.
The poodle didn’t respond. Yuuri reached him, sliding to a stop and dropping to his knees. Yuuri didn’t know where to check a pulse on a dog, but he could see the rise and fall of Victor’s chest, so he assumed he was alive. He was afraid to touch him, to move him.
Feet pounded on the ground behind him, and Minako was there in an instant. She sighed in relief after Victor took a few more deep breaths. “Odette. Go get a Cure-All potion from the emergency med kit on the far wall.” The swan honked in understanding, and took off, soaring across the field.
“Will he be ok?” Yuuri swallowed hard. “I’ve never cast a banshee wail before. I didn’t know it was that strong.” He took a moment to swat the extra hand out of his way, as it was trying very hard to distract him.
“We should be thankful the magic barrier did it’s job. It kept me from feeling it, and sucked out enough energy that you just knocked Victor out instead of killing him.”
Yuuri didn’t respond, staring miserably at Victor as Odette returned, a bottle held by her bill. Minako took the bottle and opened it. “Prop his head up,” she commanded, and Yuuri complied.
Yuuri kept Victor’s head level, while Minako carefully poured a bit of potion into his mouth. He knew that this was definitely not the proper way to administer health potion, as all of his magic education classes had warned that giving someone a health potion while they were unconscious could cause them to aspirate it. But Yuuri also knew that they couldn’t exactly call for an ambulance, so they would just have to be careful and hope that this worked.
Minako only poured a few drops, carefully watching Victor’s reaction. He groaned, and his eyes slowly fluttered open. Yuuri almost cried, he was so relieved. He resisted the urge to hug the poodle, who was still looking quite dazed and wobbly.
“You need to drink the rest of this,” Minako instructed.
Victor seemed to struggle to hold his head up, but he managed, and he lapped carefully at the potion as Minako slowly poured it into his mouth. Yuuri watched as Victor seemed to get stronger, his head drooping less and less, and his body not shaking anymore. Once Victor had finished the dose for a human of the same weight, Minako pulled the bottle away. Yuuri didn’t know if it would affect Victor differently as a dog, but Victor looked much brighter, so Yuuri didn’t bring up his concern.
“Don’t.” Minako cut him off. “It’s not your fault. That’s just how wild magic is sometimes.” She smirked. “If this had been a match, you would have won handily.”
“Don’t joke around! I could have killed Victor!”
“Oh don’t be so dramatic,” Minako said dismissivly. “You wouldn’t have killed him anymore than you would have killed someone in a match. Magical barriers exist for a reason. Granted, he would have been more protected in a combat suit, but they don’t exactly make those for dogs.”
Yuuri turned to Victor. “Tell me you’re done and we’ll stop this right now.”
Victor stood up, a little shakily. He shook his head.
Yuuri’s eyes widened. “Are you absolutely positive? I can’t guarantee something like this won’t happen again.”
Victor nodded, placing a paw on his knee.
“See? Victor’s still on board, so stop worrying!”
Yuuri glared at Minako. It wasn’t exactly in his nature to “stop worrying”, and it was kind of minimizing to hear her tell him to just brush off something so serious. “Fine. We’ll keep trying.”
Minako pat him on the back, and the extra hand patted her back. She made a disgusted face. “Good answer. Let’s call it a night and come back tomorrow.”
With a nod, Yuuri stood up, dusting off his clothes. He was shaking a bit, from all the adrenaline. He didn’t bother saying goodbye to Minako, only offering a stiff wave. Victor followed behind him, his nails clinking on the concrete as soon as they stepped off the field. The extra hand gave him the finger before it faded away as they crossed the anti-magic barrier. Victor whined behind him, and Yuuri tossed a watery smile over his shoulder.
When they reached Yutopia, Yuuri muttered an excuse about not feeling well and went straight to his room. He heard his mother call to him, sounding concerned, but he ignored her and closed the door as soon as he and Victor crossed the threshold to his room. Victor followed him closely the whole way, laying his chin on Yuuri’s thigh as soon as Yuuri collapsed on his bed. Yuuri ran his fingers through Victor’s fur, feeling the same calmness that he used to when he’d do this with Vicchan.
“I know you said you’re ok to keep trying, but I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I don’t want to hurt you,” Yuuri admitted quietly.
Victor whined in response, and Yuuri found himself wishing for the umpteenth time that he knew what the poodle was thinking. With a sigh, Yuuri rolled over, not bothering to change into his pajamas. He briefly thought about soaking in the hot springs, but then he might run into his family, and he wasn’t ready to face them. So instead, he closed his eyes and willed himself to fall asleep. Victor only waited a few seconds before jumping on the bed and curling up next to Yuuri. The first night, Yuuri had been kind of weirded out, considering that it was Victor Nikiforov in his childhood twin bed. He realized quickly that Victor’s soft snores and fluffy body bumping him reminded him of Vicchan, and it actually calmed him immensely and helped him sleep. So, Yuuri didn’t protest when Victor decided to use Yuuri as his own personal pillow.
That night, however, Victor’s presence didn’t calm him. His sleep was interrupted, and restless, and by the next morning, Yuuri felt worse than he had the previous night. He ignored Victor’s whine of protest when he got up, tossing on the first clean shirt and pants that he found. They had a schedule to keep, so he couldn’t afford to sleep in and mope.
Victor followed him reluctantly to Ice Castle, woofing in greeting at Yuuko who was working on something behind the front desk. Minako wasn’t joining them this morning, having texted Yuuri and offering him the chance to have some space. Yuuri appreciated the gesture, as he really didn’t think Minako’s presence was that helpful. If he was going to just cast spells at Victor, he might as well do it without a third party critiquing him.
This session went about as well as the others. Yuuri kept casting useless, or dangerous spells, to the point where Victor started flinching every time Yuuri raised an arm. Yuuri called it a day after he transmuted Victor into a potted plant, frantically calling Minako to ask her what to do. She claimed it was good news, since Yuuri had never done any kind of transmutation spell before. Then, she reminded him to just carry the plant over the boundary so the magic would wear off. Yuuri kicked himself for forgetting that detail again.
When Yuuri carried the little plant over the boundary line, it instantly turned back into a poodle. It was almost comical how the poodle was cradled in Yuuri’s arms. It was less comical how they both fell onto the hard concrete when Victor changed back. On the way out, Yuuko offered them a reassuring thumbs up. They walked solemnly back to Yutopia, not looking at each other.
Yuuri once again skillfully avoided his family, and he and Victor slipped into Yuuri’s room. After assuring Yuuri that he still wasn’t ready to give up, Victor used a combination of charades and writing to convince Yuuri to go back to the arena. Yuuri reluctantly agreed, and they squeezed in another session after dinner, which went equally bad as the last one. Or worse, if Yuuri was being honest. His anxiety and self-doubt was now so bad, none of his spells were actually useful, and many of them were unsafe. He accidentally cast a laughter spell on Victor that manifested as non-stop high pitched whines with his lips pulled back into the approximation of a dog-grin. It looked nothing like the goofy expression Yuuri had seen on Victor when he was truly enjoying himself. Yuuri practically shoved Victor over the boundary to end that spell.
The next day was the same, as was the day after that. On the following morning, when Yuuri looked at Victor, he felt strangely hopeful. Something about today felt different, and he moved with more purpose than usual. Victor noticed that Yuuri was acting odd, and cocked his head, making an inquisitive noise.
Yuuri shrugged in response. “I don’t know...I just have a good feeling about today.”
Victor wagged his tail in response, and the pair grabbed a quick breakfast before leaving for the arena.
They walked together to the arena, a bounce in their steps that was usually absent. The two of them were making their way up the steps, when Victor’s ears perked and his nose started twitching. Yuuri raised an eyebrow, but didn’t stop walking. He reached the door and Victor yipped.
Yuuri was cut off by a swift kick to the gut. It wasn’t a hard kick, but it wasn’t exactly feather-light, either. It was enough to knock the wind out of him, and make his head shoot up in surprise. The last person Yuuri ever expected to see was standing in front of him, blue eyes narrowed and lips curled into a sneer.
“Where. Is. Victor.” Yuri Plisetsky snarled at him.
Yuuri rubbed his abdomen gingerly, blinking at Yuri in shock and confusion. “What?”
Yuri took a step forward, still glaring at Yuuri. “I listened in on Yakov’s conversations, I know he’s here!” He scoffed. “Although, I don’t know why . Does he know you’re a washed up has-been?”
“Just tell me where he is!”
Victor growled lowly, and Yuuri’s eyes briefly fell on him. Yuri followed his gaze, and he tsked.
“I don’t have time for this. Potya!” A massive white tiger materialized in a flash of light in front of Yuri. Her eyes were as sharp as her partner’s, and her teeth and claws looked even sharper. She roared, her tail lashing and her lips curled into a furious snarl.
Yuuri gulped and took a step back. Victor bravely put himself between Yuuri and the tiger, returning her stare with a snarl of his own. It was far less intimidating.
“What the fuck is this?” Yuri gestured toward Victor.
“My Familiar,” Yuuri answered automatically.
Potya snarled, her ears flicking back toward Yuri. He glanced at her, then his narrowed even further. He clenched his hands into fists, and Potya pounced without warning, pinning Victor to the ground with a surprised yelp.
“Bullshit. Potya told me that thing is not a Familiar. It’s not even magic!”
“Ok, he’s a dog. Let him up!”
Yuri didn’t budge, and neither did Potya. “Then why did you tell me it’s a Familiar? What are you hiding?”
Yuuri bit his lip nervously. “Please just let him go,” he begged.
“No! Not until you tell me what’s going on! Where’s Victor?!”
Potya stepped down on the poodle, digging her claws in hard enough to hurt, but not hard enough to draw blood. Victor squirmed and yelped. Yuuri made a move to run toward them, but Yuri held his hands up, readying a spell.
“I swear, Potya and I will shred you into oblivion if you don’t answer me!” Yuri threatened.
Yuuri looked back and forth between Yuri and his Familiar. There was no getting out of this. “The dog is Victor! Now let him up, please! You’re hurting him!”
Yuri looked totally shocked, but to Yuuri’s relief, Potya backed off. She let Victor up, prowling back to Yuri and rubbing her massive head against him, before taking her place at his side. Her lips still quivered with quiet growls.
Yuuri ran to Victor, helping the poodle stand. Victor’s fur was disheveled, but Yuuri didn’t see any wounds on him. He shook himself off, stumbling a little. Victor looked up at Yuri, holding his tail high and his head proud.
Yuri considered Yuuri’s words, his eyes raking over Victor’s poodle form. “What did you do?” Yuri growled, sounding as dangerous as his tiger.
Swallowing hard, Yuuri replied, “It was an accident! Somehow I changed him at the banquet! I don’t remember what happened, I just woke up and he was a dog.”
Yuri gaped at him for a moment, then burst out laughing. “You, the biggest loser in the competitive sorcery circuit, managed to perform an advanced transmutation spell, and you don’t remember any of it? You’re an even bigger idiot than I thought!”
Yuuri felt himself turning scarlet from embarrassment. He ignored Yuri’s teasing the best he could. “I’m trying to change him back, so if you’ll excuse us, we have work to do.” He took a few steps forward toward the door, but Potya intercepted him, blocking his path.
“You’re not going anywhere. I’m taking Victor back to Russia and someone actually qualified is going to fix this,” Yuri said fiercely.
Yuuri opened his mouth to respond, but Victor stepped in, shaking his head.
Yuri scowled at him. “No? Are you crazy? Why not?”
“I cast a speak to animals spell and Victor told me he wants to keep trying with me. He’ll tell me if it gets to be too much,” Yuuri explained, since Victor couldn't. The poodle nodded in agreement.
“So you’re just casting random spells and hoping one will change him back?” Yuri asked incredulously.
“That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! There are thousands of spells, the chances of you casting the right one are slim!”
“I know,” Yuuri admitted. “I said the same thing, but Victor asked to try this.”
Yuri tsked. “Well, Victor’s and idiot, and so are you. I’m calling Yakov.”
Victor sprang forward, grabbing Yuri’s sleeve and shaking his head. Potya bunched up her muscles like she was ready to pounce on him, but Yuri held up a hand to stop her.
“I’m not leaving you here with this incompetant pig!” Yuri insisted.
Yuuri took a deep breath and stepped toward Yuri. “You’re not taking him anywhere. Victor wants to be here, and he asked for my help.” He held his chin high, trying not to be intimidated by a scrawny teenager.
Yuri turned a violent shade of red, and looked like he was going to explode. Then, a dangerous smile crept across his face. “How about we fight for him?”
“This run-down arena can hold matches, yes? Set one up. Winner gets to decide what to do with Victor.”
Yuuri glanced at Victor, who released Yuri and nodded. “I accept your challenge,” Yuuri said as confidently as he could.
“I’m going to crush you so bad you’ll never set foot in an arena ever again.” He smirked, turning on his heel to enter Ice Castle.
Yuuri watched the younger sorcerer disappear beyond the doors. Victor nosed at his hand and Yuuri turned to look at him. The poodle look nervous. Yuuri smiled reassuringly.
“Don’t worry, it will be alright. He’s totally underestimating me,” Yuuri said in a surprising bout of confidence. Victor was here with him for a reason. He chose to stay with Yuuri. He told Yuuri that he watched him, admired him even. That counted for something. Yuuri was not going to let a kid with an attitude problem take Victor away from him.
After a quick call to Minako, because they needed a referee, Yuuri entered the arena. Yuuko was waiting for him, giving him a thumbs up. He was tempted to ask if she had a vision about how the match would turn out, but he quickly shook off the temptation. Victor followed him into the locker room, waiting for him to change. He carefully folded his glasses, putting them on the top shelf of a locker. He grabbed his contacts and put them in, blinking a few times to make sure they were comfortable. He hated wearing them, but it was a necessity for matches. Obviously, being able to see his opponent without worrying about glasses falling off his face was helpful. Once Yuuri was ready, they made their way into the arena. Yuuri’s stomach twisted into a knot as he saw Yuri and Poyta waiting for them, stretching and gearing up on one side of the field. Yuuri took his place across from them.
Of course, the field was ready to go. Yuuko must have had a vision, because the training dummies and debris was cleared out, and the boundary lines on the edge of the field were freshly painted. Yuuri looked up and saw Takeshi grinning at him, surrounded by Yuuko and the triplets who waved and cheered encouragingly. He returned the gesture, then retreated into his own head to settle his nerves and warm up.
Minako appeared a few minutes later, offering protective armor to both competitors. It was a little clunky, a fact which Yuri commented on and expressed his distaste about, but it would do. Minako explained that the gear had been recently maintenanced, so along with the barrier, it would keep them from getting seriously injured, and keep their magic under control. It was a necessity for two wild magic users.
Yuuri sized up his competition. There was the usual buzz of anxiety, but there was also a feeling of excitement. It had been years since Yuuri had faced another wild magic user in combat. If he remembered correctly, the last time he faced someone like him was in the novice division. He had never fought an experienced wild magic user like Yuri. Or like himself.
Minako took her place on the referee’s stand, on center and just outside the field. She picked up the whistle around her neck and let out two short sounds. It was the signal for 60 seconds. Yuuri closed his eyes and shook off as much tension as he could, breathing deeply and focusing on the magic flowing through him. Or at least he tried to, but was interrupted by Yuri swearing and screaming.
Yuuri opened his eyes in time to see Victor run toward him and take up a combative stance in front of him. “Victor! You’re going to get hurt, get out of here!”
“Hey dumbass, get off the field!” Yuri yelled.
Victor shook his head.
“Tell this asshole he’s breaking the rules!” Yuri insisted.
“Well…” Minako responded, looking thoughtful. “There isn’t actually anything in the rules forbidding Victor from being on the field. The rules don’t explicitly forbid the use of animals, since some sorcerers summon them.”
“But it’s still a terrible idea,” Yuuri said firmly. “It’s dangerous!”
“That, I agree with,” Minako replied. “I’m not going to forcibly remove him, though. That’s up to you.”
Yuri grumbled and expressed his displeasure. “That’s not fair! You can’t help him!”
Yuuri looked at Victor pleadingly. “Please, Victor. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Victor looked up at him with puppy-dog eyes, a look he had perfected during his time with Yuuri. He even whined a little, cocking his head for added effect. God, Yuuri was so weak.
“Fine. If you want to stay, it’s your choice. But if after the first round you’re getting hurt, I’ll forfeit the match if you won’t get off the field. Deal?”
Victor nodded, wagging his tail. Then, he resumed his offensive stance.
Yuuri couldn’t help the small smile that crept across his face. Victor really was here for him. He looked up at Yuri. “I told you Victor wanted to be here. We can call this off if you want to.”
“Not a chance! I’ll destroy both of you and drag Victor’s unconscious body back to Russia if I have to!” Yuri snarled.
Yuuri just shrugged in response. “Suit yourself.” He turned back to Victor. “Keep Potya busy. If we can disrupt her, Yuri’s spells won’t be as powerful.”
Victor nodded in understanding. It wasn’t a very thorough plan, but it was a plan.
Seeming satisfied that a choice had been made, Minako whistled twice again, restarting the 60 second count. From across the arena, Yuri yelled, “I won’t go easy on you just because you have that geezer on your side!”
Victor made a displeased noise at the name-calling, but didn’t seem discouraged. Yuuri glanced around the arena, trying to guess which way Yuri would move first. He’d seen Yuri’s matches before. The teen was always offensive rather than defensive, and a prime example of emotion influencing magic. A high proportion of Yuri’s spells were explosive, fiery, and dangerous, just like the teen. He wouldn’t be able to beat Yuri head on, but he might be able to wear him down enough to gain a physical advantage, especially if Victor could keep Potya busy. Yuuri knew his stamina was better, and he was going to have to use every ounce of it. Yuri was fast, and Yuuri wasn’t sure if he’d be able to land a direct hit for a knockout, assuming he even cast a useful spell in the first place, but he might be able to exhaust Yuri and force him over the barrier.
Minako blew the whistle once, in a short burst. It was the 10 second warning. Yuuri took up his own fighting stance, watching Yuri and Potya do the same. The tiger stood in front of him, much like Victor was doing for Yuuri. Victor growled, but it was drowned out by Potya’s snarls and roars.
Then, one long whistle filled the arena, and both Yuuri and Yuri shot into action. Potya remained close to Yuri, acting as his defense while he summoned his magic. The tiger began to glow, helping her partner channel his magic. Victor reached her just in time, surprising her by his directness and knocking her off balance with a hip check. It broke the Familiar’s concentration enough that the glow faded before Yuri could cast his spell off.
It didn’t stop the magic, of course, but it should have weakened it. Yuuri braced himself, ready to change direction on a dime. As expected, Yuri’s first spell was a physical, fire based attack. A fireball shot across the arena, directly toward him. Even knowing the armor and the barrier would protect him from serious harm, the adrenaline still shot through him, and Yuuri nimbly rolled out of the way to avoid the attack. He had just gotten back to his feet when Yuri cast another spell in his direction. Victor was still keeping Potya busy by dancing just out of her reach and nipping at her tail, and Yuri was shouting curses at him.
Yuri’s second spell wasn’t as explosive. He disappeared with a “pop”, and Potya followed shortly after. Victor yipped in confusion, looking around for the pair. “Can you hear them? Or smell them?”
Victor shook his head, and Yuuri started running through spells that Yuri could have cast. If it was simple teleportation, he would have appeared by now. If it was invisibility, Victor would be able to smell or hear them. “I think he cast blink!” Yuuri told Victor, who was worriedly trotting back to him. The poodle nodded in understanding.
Yuuri cast his own spell, hoping it would be something useful to protect him against Yuri. A puddle of water appeared in front of them, and Yuuri groaned in frustration. He was about to say something else to Victor, when another “pop” sounded from behind them. Yuuri turned, readying another spell, but he wasn’t fast enough. A fist collided with his face, and he stumbled backwards, before being knocked to the ground and pinned by a snarling tiger.
Victor gallantly tried to help, but Yuri cast another spell and Victor was teleported to the opposite side of the arena. Even from his precarious position, he breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t a physically dangerous spell. Then, he turned his thoughts back to getting out of his current predicament.
Potya snarled, her claws digging into his armor. “Yield,” Yuri snarled, just as menacingly.
The tiger had his arms pinned down, physically disrupting the flow of magic through his body. It made casting a spell harder, but it wouldn’t stop Yuuri. He focused his energy, releasing a large burst. Yuri yelped in surprise, and his Familiar leapt off of Yuuri, running back toward her partner. Massive vines were erupting out of the ground, tangling around Yuri while Potya tried swiping at them with massive clawed paws.
Yuuri took the opportunity to scramble away, meeting Victor in the middle of the arena. Yuri let out a noise of frustration, then cast another spell. The vines shuddered, then began to wither around Yuri, releasing him. Yuri made a noise of triumph, realizing how lucky he was to have cast the exact spell he needed.
Yuri turned back toward Yuuri and Victor, his eyes blazing. “You’re going to regret that, pig!” He cast another spell at Yuuri.
A sense of dread filled Yuuri as a massive form began to take shape beside him. It was a horrible, scaled creature, with a dozen eyes, dripping fangs, and two sets of lanky arms. It looked like something conjured out of a nightmare. The creature roared, it’s mouth opening unnaturally wide to reveal rows of pointed teeth. It didn’t have any legs, but it pulled itself along the ground quickly with its arms, a snake like tail dragging behind it. Yuuri couldn’t quite place what animal the head resembled, as it looked more like a lump with too many teeth and eyes than anything he’d ever seen. It was the most horrible beast he’d ever seen in his life.
Yuuri took a step back, barely registering Yuri’s laughter across the field, and Victor’s frantic barks beside him. The creature advanced on him, and Yuuri was trying to use logic to figure out what Yuri had summoned so he could try and counter it. But it was hard to think logically when the monster was so close that Yuuri was barely able to scramble out of its reach.
He ran, and Yuri’s laughs only grew louder, as did Victor’s barking. Victor cut him off by running in front of him, almost tripping Yuuri. “Victor! We have to run! There’s no way we can fight that!” Victor didn’t budge, standing in his running path. Yuuri tried to move around him, but Victor jumped in front of him again.
“Are you crazy? We can’t fight that thing!” Yuuri gestured back toward the monster, which was dragging itself toward the pair of them.
Victor whined, looking remarkably calm. Yuuri tried to move around him again and Victor grabbed his arm with his teeth, careful not to break skin, but holding him in place.
“Stop! Let me go!” Yuuri was frantic with fear now. The monster was practically on them, and Victor wouldn’t let him go. “Let me--”
Yuuri’s plea was cut off as a blunt object hit his chest, sending him flying backwards, over the boundary line. He hadn’t realized they’d gotten so close. Minako’s whistle sounded, and Yuri cheered triumphantly. Yuuri looked up at the field, where the monster was fading into nothing. He realized that it hadn’t been real, but whatever Yuri hit him with was. Yuri was still holding, or rather dragging, a sledgehammer behind him. Yuuri winced in pain as he moved, the spot where Yuri had hit him already aching. He was just thankful the armor did its job and absorbed enough of the impact to keep him from getting seriously injured.
“Yuri takes the first round!” Minako announced from her referee stand.
Yuri fist pumped the air, clearly happy with himself, and Potya chuffed, sharing her partner’s enthusiasm. He turned on Yuuri. “You moron, don’t you know an illusion when you see one? I can’t believe you fell for that!”
“No trash talking on my field!” Minako said sternly. She blew her whistle twice, indicating a new 60 second warning.
Yuuri groaned in pain and frustration. Victor padded over to him, Yuuko following behind. She offered him a water bottle, which he accepted gratefully. He gulped down the water, then stood up on shaky legs. “Thanks Yuuko.” He turned to Victor. “I’m sorry. You were trying to tell me. I messed up.”
Victor whined in response, and Yuuko placed a supportive hand on his shoulder, taking the water bottle from him. He turned to look at Minako. “Are you not going to call that headshot?” Yuuri rubbed his cheek where Yuri had punched him. Headshots were supposed to be immediate penalties.
“Magical headshots are illegal, fists are not. Don’t get punched next time,” Minako said helpfully.
Yuuri sighed, then motioned for Victor to follow him. The two of them made their way onto the field, returning to their spots. They had to be at least 30 seconds in now, and Yuuri was desperately trying to come up with a better strategy. He looked at Victor, and a memory hit him:
If you cast a few bigger spells while you were that calm they’d probably be incredibly powerful.
Yuuri took a deep breath. “Victor? I think I’m going to make good on that promise now.”
Victor looked confused for a moment, before his eyes widened in recognition and his tail wagged furiously.
“Keep up what you were doing, and I’ll try...something.”
Victor nodded, then the 10 second whistle sounded. Instead of taking up a fighting stance, Yuuri stepped into first position, and waited for the final whistle. If Yuri noticed the change, he didn’t comment on it. That is, until the final whistle sounded, and Yuuri took off, dancing across the field.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Yuri shouted.
Yuuri didn’t answer, channeling his magic and releasing a spell in Yuri’s direction. He caught Yuri off guard, startling the teen enough to cause him to stumble backwards. The spell didn’t end up being offensive. Yuuri felt the energy building around him, until a dazzling shield of light appeared in front of him and Victor. He could see Yuri through the light, slightly obscured, and looking incredibly pissed off.
“I don’t know what kind of weird mind games you’re playing, but it won’t work!” Yuri shouted as he directed a spell at Yuuri.
Victor made to run toward Potya to disrupt her, but Yuuri yelled, “Wait! Stay behind the shield!” The poodle skidded to a stop, just in time for crackling lightning to strike the shield just in front of him. The shield held, and deflected the spell back toward Yuri and Potya, who scrambled away just in time to avoid being hit with the rebound.
Yuuri didn’t give them any time to recover, continuing to twirl and glide behind the shield and readying another spell. It was working, just like Victor said. He felt the usual calm that overtook him when he was dancing, but the magic was still simmering just under his skin, ready for release. Still, it was a challenge to cast another spell, since he was still holding the shield in place, but he managed. At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then, Victor yipped in surprise, and Yuuri watched as he got bigger and bigger, until he was the size of a horse. That should level the playing field with the tiger a bit.
Yuuri grinned, and Victor glanced back at him, wagging his tail. He barked once, a question. “Go get them,” Yuuri said with a nod, and Victor took off, bursting through the shield and slamming into Potya. The tiger yowled in surprise as Victor pinned her down.
“Potya! Get off of her you stupid mutt!” Yuri was racing toward Victor, readying a spell, but Yuuri was faster this time.
With a graceful swish of his arm, Yuuri cast another spell in Yuri’s direction. A flaming sword materialized in Yuuri’s grasp, and he charged toward his teenage opponent, finally breaking out of his dance. It almost felt like slow motion, watching Yuri ready himself to cast at Victor, while Yuuri rushed at him with his sword raised. Yuri skidded to a stop as he noticed Yuuri running at him, changing his aim so Yuuri was the target.
In a flash of light, a sword appeared in Yuri’s own hands. He looked triumphant, for a moment, before taking a closer look at the object. Yuri had summoned a sword, but it was completely made of wood. He swore as Yuuri bore down on him, not having time to cast another spell. Yuuri raised the flaming sword, dispelling his shield as he struck down. Yuri raised the wooden sword, and it cracked instantly under the assault from the real one.
The impact made Yuri stumble, and Yuuri slashed out, making contact with the magical armor. Yuri wouldn’t be injured, but it probably hurt like hell, and it knocked the teen onto his back. Yuuri held the sword to his throat. “Yield,” he said sternly, just like Yuri had done to him.
Yuri looked momentarily overwhelmed, before his face twisted with rage. “I’ll never yield to a fat loser like you!” Faster than Yuuri could react, Yuri cast a spell.
Yuri’s hair started to grow longer, and his nails sharpened into razor sharp claws. His whole body shuddered, and then Yuuri was no longer looking at a teenage sorcerer, he was staring down a nearly full-grown lion. Yuri, in lion form, snarled at him. Even in his polymorph form, he was still clearly a teenager, his legs gangly and his mane scruffy and not quite filled in. But he was still lion with very sharp teeth and claws.
Yuuri was briefly distracted as Victor yelped, and he glanced over to see what was going on. Potya had taken a swipe at the poodle, and there was a gash on his side. It didn’t seem to discourage Victor, as he snarled and immediately leapt at the tiger again, his increased size allowing him to pin her once again.
Turning away from Yuri was a mistake, one that his opponent took full advantage of. Yuri charged at him with another furious snarl, and Yuuri barely managed to stumble out of the way in time. Yuri landed where he had been standing just moments before, turning gracefully to face Yuuri again. Yuuri raised his sword, keeping the flaming object between him and the lion. It turned into a very different kind of dance, Yuri lunging and trying to hook his claws into Yuuri, but leaping out of the way when Yuuri swung his sword. They both waited for an opening, circling each other. The arena was silent, except for Yuri’s low growls and the sound of the continued struggle between Potya and Victor.
Suddenly, Yuri bared his teeth. Yuuri braced himself, but an attack did not come. Victor barked out warning behind him, but he couldn’t act fast enough. Potya had de-materialized and then re-materialized right next to him, and immediately grabbed his arm. She bit down, hard, and Yuuri couldn’t help but drop the sword with a pained scream. Yuri saw the opening, and ran at him.
Yuuri desperately willed his magic to work, to cast something useful. Potya tried to pull him down, to throw him off, but Yuuri managed to cast the spell off. There was no obvious effect, no explosions, no earthquakes, but all the activity on the field stopped. Potya released his arm, and Yuri skidded to a halt, stopping just inches in front of him.
As Yuuri regained his balance, he looked into the lion’s eyes, and saw them covered with a familiar glaze. Yuuri sighed in relief. He had charmed Yuri. It wouldn’t be the most spectacular win, but it would save him a lot of trouble.
“Yuri. Step over the boundary. Uh, please,” Yuuri said to the lion.
Yuri made a pleased noise, and did exactly as he was asked, padding away toward the edge of the field. Potya followed him, looking equally as dazed. As his Familiar, the spell was affecting her too. And just like that, Yuri stepped over the boundary line and Minako blew her whistle.
“Second round goes to Yuuri!” Minako called.
As soon as Yuri stepped over the barrier, both the polymorph and the charm spell wore off. Yuri was crouched on all fours, blinking in confusion. He stood up, turning his head to find Yuuri and yell a few choice swears at him.
Yuuri breathed out a sigh of relief, making his way over to Victor. He eyed the wound on Victor’s side, which was bleeding, but not too deep. “Are you ok? Do you need to stop?”
Victor shook his head enthusiastically.
Yuuri smiled gratefully. “Thank you. I don’t know if I could do this without you.”
Victor wagged his tail, and they made their way to the edge of the field. They both stepped over the barrier, and Victor shrunk down to his original size. All magical effects needed to be cancelled out before the start of a new round, it was only fair. Yuuri rubbed his sore arm where Potya had bit him. If only physical effects could be cancelled out too.
Yuuko appeared in front of him again, handing him the same water bottle. As he was drinking, he glanced at Victor, wishing the anti-magic barrier could just work on him too. Yuuko seemed to know what he was thinking, because she said, “It doesn’t work like that. It only cancels out magic that was created inside the barrier. Otherwise people would have a really hard time taking their Familiars through.” Maybe she did know what he was thinking; she was a diviner after all.
Yuuri nodded. “Yeah. And that would be far too easy for us, right?”
Yuuko smiled, patting him on the shoulder. She offered a bowl of water to Victor, then approached Yuri. At first, he snarled at her, but when she offered him a bottle of water and some encouraging words, he seemed to relax. Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. Yuuko could charm anyone, and she didn’t even need magic to do it.
Minako blew her whistle twice, and the competitors stepped back onto the field. Yuuri waved towards the stands again as he heard the triplets cheering his name. A mixture of excitement and dread pooled in his gut. This was the final round, it would determine who won, and where Victor would go. The thought was terrifying, because if he lost, he had no idea what would happen. Yuri would take Victor back to Russia, and then what? Would Yuuri be arrested? Would he ever get to see Victor again? Yuuri’s hands curled into fists. He didn’t like those what-ifs. He wanted, no, needed , to win. He’d show the Russian Punk what he could do.
Yuuri glanced at Victor, who was taking up his stance in front. He was breathing a little harder than he should have been. The last round must have been harder on him than he wanted to admit. Yuuri didn’t want him to get hurt again, especially since Yuri had become wise to their strategy.
“Stick with me this time. Be my defense.”
Victor looked back at him and nodded, just in time for the 10 second whistle to blow. Yuuri took up the same position, dancing away as the final whistle sounded. Yuri was not thrown off this time, and he immediately launched into an attack. Fortunately for Yuuri, all he did was summon a field of wildflowers. They smelled lovely, and Yuuri smiled as he danced through them. It reminded him of the picture on the wall of Minako’s studio. Victor woofed happily, trotting along beside him, and Yuuri laughed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually had fun during a match like this.
“You won’t be laughing when I’m done with you!” Yuri threatened, casting another spell with a violent flick of his wrist.
Nothing happened, and Yuri opened his mouth (probably to yell something rude), but the only sound that came out was a quack. Yuri tried again, quacking once more. His face got tomato red, and he started shaking his fists at Yuuri, quacking in increasingly high pitched tones and stomping his feet. Yuuri laughed, almost falling out of the rhythm he had created. He managed to stay on beat with the song in his head, not letting the ridiculous consequence of Yuri’s spell distract him. Yuri was already readying another spell, but Yuuri could see the strain on his face, and the slight tremble of his muscles. He was tired, and he was getting sloppy.
Yuuri answered with a spell of his own, sweeping his arm toward Yuri as he finished a complicated series of steps. The magic burst forward, and a flurry of snowflakes exploded from his fingers. He concentrated, and the snowflakes shifted together into shards of ice, flying across the field toward Yuri.
Yuri quacked again, frantically waving his arms to cast a spell while he dove out of the way. He didn’t land gracefully, landing on his stomach and disrupting his own spell. Yuuri pressed his advantage, casting again since the ice had missed his opponent. Victor stayed right next to him, barking and howling with excitement.
Yuuri felt the energy flowing through his body, and to his surprise, he cast another elemental spell. A powerful gust of wind flew forward, strong enough to jostle boulders and carve a path through the pool of water on the field. Yuri was struggling to get to his feet, but he managed to throw a spell at Yuuri before the wind hit him, knocking him backwards toward the boundary. Yuuri spun to the side, and the spell missed him, but he could feel the air crackling around him just by his ear. He pushed out more energy, as much as he could manage, so the force of his magic increased. The wind howled in the arena, and Yuri was sent tumbling backwards, over the boundary. Minako’s whistle blew.
“Yuuri takes round three. The match goes to Yuuri!”
Yuuri cut off his magic, letting the wind die down. He grinned, and turned to find Victor. “Victor! I did it--”
Victor was laying on the ground behind him in a heap, his legs twitching. Yuuri’s stomach dropped, and he raced toward the poodle. He couldn’t tell what was wrong. Victor didn’t look injured, other than the wound on his side, but he was quivering and spasming. Yuuri reached him, dropping to his knees so he could hold the poodle. Minako was racing toward them, Yuri hot on her heels.
“What spell did you cast?” Yuuri demanded, Victor writhing in his arms.
“I don’t…” Yuri replied quietly, looking uneasy as he approached the pair. Minako gently pushed him aside so she could kneel next to Yuuri.
“What spell did you cast?!” Yuuri tried again.
“I don’t know! It wasn’t something I’ve cast before!” Yuri admitted, looking more vulnerable than Yuuri had ever seen him.
Victor suddenly went limp in Yuuri’s arms, and Yuuri feared the worse. “We have to get him over the barrier!” Yuuri yelled, his muscles protesting as he started to lift the large dog. Then, Victor’s whole body convulsed, and he whimpered painfully. His muscles started trembling, and then his whole body was changing, shifting. It happened in an instant: canine legs stretching into human legs, floppy ears folding into a more human shape, and curly hair receding everywhere except Victor’s head. Yuuri barely had time to blink, before the body in front of him was a man instead of a dog. A very, very naked man. That Yuuri was still holding onto.
Victor’s eyelids fluttered, and then Yuuri was looking into the deep blue of his idol’s eyes. A small smile crept over Victor’s features. “I must have died and gone to heaven, because you’re so beautiful, you have to be an angel.”
Yuuri gaped at him. “What?” he squeaked.
Yuri made a gagging sound. “Ugh! I don’t want to listen to you flirt!” As prickly as he sounded, Yuuri could also hear the relief in his voice.
“Are you ok?” Yuuri asked.
Victor stretched in Yuuri’s arms. “Everything feels ok!”
As he moved, Yuuri could feel Victor’s smooth, warm skin underneath his fingertips. He was reminded that Victor was still naked as the day he was born, and Yuuri squeaked and dropped him, feeling embarrassed. He scrambled backwards as Victor hit the ground with a soft “oof”. It was a mistake, because now he could see even more of Victor’s glorious body. Yuuri made a very conscious effort to keep his eyes on Victor’s face, his whole body feeling flushed.
“Ow.” Victor pouted at Yuuri. “What was that for?”
“Because you’re naked, you gross old man!” Yuri shrieked, covering his eyes.
Victor looked down at his bare body. “Oh. Guess I am.” He didn’t sound remotely embarrassed, sitting up and shifting like he was going to stand.
Minako held up a hand. “There are kids here.” She gestured to the stands, where Yuuko and Takeshi were diligently trying to keep the triplets from taking pictures of the scene.
“Whoops,” Victor said, finally sounding a little sheepish.
“Don’t worry.” Minako waved her hand and a set of garments appeared. She handed Victor a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. “Just make sure you get back to Yutopia before the spell wears off. We don’t need you walking around town naked.”
Yuuri blushed even harder at that mental image. Victor smiled gratefully, then slipped the clothes on. Once he was covered, Victor dusted himself off and stood up, stretching his limbs. “I feel so tall now!”
“I’m sure you do, you were used to a dog’s perspective,” Minako reasoned.
Victor hummed, continuing to stretch and move his limbs. “I’ll miss being able to smell and hear everything, but it is nice to have full color vision. I’m also looking forward to being able to properly use a toilet.” He turned toward Yuuri with a grin. “Well, it wasn’t what we planned, but we did it!”
“I don’t think I can take any credit for this. It was Yuri’s spell,” Yuuri replied.
“That is true!” Victor agreed. “That was some dispel magic spell!”
“Is that what happened?” Yuuri questioned.
Victor nodded. “Yes, I think so. It felt like a really strong dispel magic spell. I don’t know if it would have worked at a lower energy level, it felt like my body was fighting against changing back!”
“Interesting,” Minako commented. “I didn’t even think about finding someone to cast dispel magic on you.”
“Seriously?” Yuri huffed. “That would have been my first suggestion!”
“Oh? Then why didn’t you say anything when you ran into us outside?” Victor replied cheekily, and Yuri gave him the finger.
Yuri was glaring at Victor. “Great, you’ve gone from an annoying dog back to an annoying human. Now, come back to Russia! You promised you’d train me for my senior debut!”
Victor frowned. “I did?”
Yuri snarled, grinding his teeth. “Yes, you forgetful geezer! Now deliver on your promise!”
Victor opened his mouth to respond, when there was a sudden flash of light in front of them. A brown poodle stood in front of Victor, tongue lolling out of her mouth and tail wagging. Victor gasped in delight. “Makkachin! I missed you!” The poodle Familiar yipped happily, jumping at Victor as he bent down to hug her. Yuuri smiled at the display, happy to see Victor reunited with his beloved Familiar.
“Where were you?” Victor asked as he pulled back from the hug. Makkachin cocked her head like she was answering, and Victor nodded in understanding. “Makes sense.”
“What did she say?” Yuuri asked curiously.
“Oh, it seems quite obvious in hindsight. I wasn’t connected to my magic, so I wasn’t connected to Makka,” Victor explained with a shrug.
“Hm, that does make sense,” Yuuri agreed.
Yuri practically roared behind them. “Can you focus for two seconds?! What about my training?!”
“I’m sorry Yuri, but I’m not leaving Hasetsu,” Victor said resolutely.
Yuuri’s eyes widened and Yuri shrieked indignantly. “You’re not?” They both asked in unison.
“Of course not!” He smiled warmly at Yuuri. “We made such a great team, and now I’ve seen how much potential you have! Of course, you were still sloppy, but I’m positive that as your coach, I’d be able to help you hone this new dance-combat combination. You’ll win gold for sure!”
“Yes! You suggested it at the banquet, and after seeing you in action, I think it’s a wonderful idea!”
“I did what ?!” Yuuri squeaked.
“You asked me to be your coach!” Victor said with a grin, absentmindedly patting Makka’s head. “After you danced with me, but before you dragged me to your room to prove you would be a ‘worthy’ student. I thought you were trying to hook up with me, but then you actually cast a spell.”
“Oh my god…” Yuuri was horrified.
Victor waved a hand dismissively. “You were very drunk, I wouldn’t have let anything happen between us.”
“So...that’s how you became a poodle?” Yuuri asked, feeling shocked by Victor’s explanation.
Victor nodded. “Yup!” he said cheerfully. “Needless to say, I was impressed! You managed to cast a long-lasting transmutation spell without even trying. How incredible!”
Yuri tsked. “How ridiculous .“ He scowled. “So you don’t have time to train me, but you have time to train this loser?” Yuri jabbed a thumb at Yuuri.
Victor’s smile turned sharp. “This... loser just beat you fair and square. What does that say about you, kitten?”
Yuri looked like he was about to rip Victor’s head off, and Potya was growling menacingly, so Yuuri stepped in. “Victor, that’s an amazing offer, but it’s not fair to Yuri.” Both Russians raised an eyebrow at him. “You made a promise, you need to keep it.”
“I have promises I need to keep too,” Yuuri explained. “I have my own coach to think about. I made promises to him too, and I haven’t done a good job keeping them.” Yuuri smiled gently. “I would be honored to have you as my coach, but I think we should wait until next season. It would give me time to wrap up with Celestino and say goodbye to my rinkmate. It’s not fair to them for me to bail now, and it’s not fair to Yuri for you to bail either.”
“You don’t need to compete if you don’t want to, I know you feel burnt out. But please let me do this first, I need to do this,” Yuuri said firmly. “I promise, if we both still feel like it’s right, we can become a team after the end of this season.”
Victor smiled, holding out his hand. “Shake on it?”
Yuuri reached out, grabbing Victor’s hand and gripping it firmly. He returned Victor’s smile, enjoying the openness on the other man’s face. They separated, and then Victor turned to Yuri. “Well, I guess you’re getting what you want!”
Yuuri turned to Yuri, extending his hand. “That was a great match. You were amazing, you cast some incredibly high level spells. I can’t believe you’re already able cast polymorph!”
Yuri tried to hide it with a scowl, but he was blushing slightly under Yuuri’s compliments. “Yeah, I’m pretty great.” He blushed harder. “You were pretty ok, I guess.” Yuri accepted Yuuri’s outstretched hand, and they shook. Potya chuffed beside him, reflecting her partner’s better mood.
Victor made a pleased noise. “Wonderful! I’m glad you’re getting along.” Yuri glared at him, while Victor tapped his chin thoughtfully. “It’s going to be hard to find the time while we’re competing, but I’ll make sure I train with you before I leave to coach Yuuri. I promise.”
Yuri nodded in approval, but Yuuri’s eyes widened at Victor’s word choice. “You said ‘while we’re competing’. Does that mean…?”
Victor grinned. “Yes! I’m going to finish the season with you!” Makka barked excitedly at her partner’s explanation.
“Really?” Yuuri couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had another chance to meet Victor on the field!
Victor nodded. “Seeing you fight like that inspired me again. I want to compete against you, so you better make it to Worlds.”
“I will.” He smirked. “I might even take the gold from you.”
Victor laughed. “I really hope you do, but I won’t go down without a fight.”
Yuuri smiled. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”